Ghostpoet: Koko, Camden Feb 15th

On Wednesday night, rather than watch what turned out to be the shattering of Arsene Wenger’s Champions League dream for another year, I was at Koko in Camden. I was there to witness the Mercury Music Prize nominated Ghostpoet’s biggest London show yet. That’s not quite accurate actually, because, when the game kicked off, I was enjoying a few Estrella Dams over the road in the Lyttelton Arms with Jo and one of my best mates, Jimmy. And, by the time the gig started, at five to ten, the Arsenal had been well and truly stuffed by Milan. But, clearly, I didn’t know Ghostpoet (and his guitarist, drummer, string & horn sections) would be so late coming on.

In truth, such was the night’s alcohol intake that, a couple of days later, I can’t remember very much of the gig. Comparisons can be “odious” in the words of Brain Glanville. However, for me, the early part of Ghostpoet’s hour was dominated by the fact that Roots Manuva, an obvious influence on Mr Poet, had pitched his tent in some style just down the road last week.  And, despite Ghostpoet “Hello, Koko” starting with one of my favourite tracks from Peanut Butter Blues, Gaaasp, it took a while to get into the gig- it seemed too early for that one whilst the drums were so loud they seemed to distract from the ominous atmosphere of the song.

Before the gig, Jo had spotted Steve Lamacq in the queue and, it turned out we were stood not far from him. We didn’t go and say hello though, Jimmy and I contented ourselves with the thought that he must get loads of people coming up to him whenever he goes to a gig. Or not. Lamacq had apparently been championing the cause of Alt-J, who were supporting Ghostpoet. I liked what I heard, but nothing really stood out- apparently Lamacq said last night that he thought it was the wrong environment for them.

I don’t suppose the multiple Estrellas, supplemented with Red Stripe- and then Becks when a helpful barmaid told me the Red Stripe was too warm- helped, but the early part of the gig passed me by as I floated on a hazy cloud of indifference. Liiiines coming and going early didn’t help much either- if ever there was a set closer, surely that was it?

For me, the gig really took off with the arrival of Lianne La Havas for Survive it, her voice prettily bouncing off Ghostpoet’s engaging mutterings about getting out of a rut- in fact that one really spoke to me for some reason. The darling of the Guardian, Katy B, then appeared to provide assistance for a rousing version of Us Against Whatever. Unlike La Havas, who came onstage, sang her bit and then disappeared as if she was just happy to be on stage, Miss B came out and really wanted to work the crowd. I preferred La Havas, to be honest, but Katy B accomplished her mission. Finished I Ain’t was an undoubted highlight. Writing this now, and thinking back, it seems to me that the songs I generally enjoyed were the ones with a bit of oomph to them- I think it may have been to do with waiting till 10 for the start and then you just want a real rush of a gig, there’s no time for introspection.

The encore was preceeded by a couple of new songs which I really enjoyed- Jimmy wasn’t so sure. And then we got the final song of the night, Cash And Carry Me Home, which had everyone jumping “I’ve had a couple of drinks well a little bit”, oh yes, and seemed to go on for just a little longer than the album version. It was a great end to a gig that started slowly, but got better and better. I have no idea if the likeable Ghostpoet will be able to follow up Peanut Butter Blues with an album that’s even better, but I do think his live shows would certainly benefit from having more material to play with.

That’s probably an obvious point to make, I guess..

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