Gathering in the beating heart of Southampton’s Cultural Quarter, the thick layer of dry ice and lush red drapes seem an intimate and fitting setting for the brooding, dejection of London MC Obaro Ejimiwe, AKA Ghostpoet.
But before the slackly-elocuted anxiety of 2011’s ‘Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam’ basks in the tiny room upstairs, the cram-packed attendance are treated to ‘bleiki’ssoundscape-y electronica. Timed adroitly to a backdrop of beguiling visuals under the scorching Cellar lights, the South Coast soloist launches through choice cuts from his brand-spanking debut full-length ‘Palest Boy At School’ – seemingly wooing even the most blasé hipsters in the process. ‘Patrick’ – whose bleep-laden ambience is accompanied by a terrifyingly brilliant video made up of sketches drawn by his autistic brother – is especially mesmerizing (WARNING: not for the faint of heart clown).
Suitably roused, a pork pie-free Ghostpoet arrives on cue, seemingly intent on cooking up a Friday night, sweat-sullied party to remember. Applying his trademark lethargic drawl to the bubbling bass rumble of ‘Finished I Ain’t’, his animated delivery and charm-in-spades execution are testament to his rising stature. However, the persistent Punch and Judy pantomime routine (“If you’re having a good time make some noise? I said, if you’re having a good time MAKE SOME NOISE”) does seem to sit somewhat uncomfortably with the Mercury-nominated debut’s sparse ethereal arrangements and despondent modern life musings.
That said, the bulk of punters are far from ambivalent – especially when ‘Survive It’ encourages the first larynx-warming singalong and then the excellent, Gilles Peterson-approved breakthrough ‘Liiines’ boots into life to rapturous applause. After raising a bundle of perspiration-saturated tissue aloft like a trophy, the 29-year-old also unveils tonight’s only new cut – the self-proclaimed “lazily titled” ‘Hampton South’, composed during a prolonged soundcheck at the neighboring Joiners Arms. A looped, dub-lite ditty of muted guitar and playful prose – it meets instantaneous approval.
After an anti-climatic faux-closer, Ejimiwe returns to dispense a souped-up live translation of ‘Cash and Carry Me Home’, but it once again resonates uneasily – with each gap between lines about hungover loathing being filled with an excitable “Jump, Jump, Jump” or a “Hands up Southampton”. Ultimately, this is pleasing – but it is this inclination to pander to the casual observer that does slightly undermine Ghostpoet’s unique and tempting committals to record thus far. ★★★
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