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LIVE: Ghostpoet - Gullivers, Manchester

Far Out headed to the intimate surroundings of Gullivers in Manchester on Thursday, to witness an understated live return from a former Mercury nominee and one of the greatest new voices in British hip-hop.

Ghostpoet arrived in our consciousness back in 2010, catching the attention of world music master Gilles Peterson and releasing his debut album Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam via Brownswood the following year.

A second effort arrived on PIAS in 2013, moving slightly away from some of the grime and house-inspired sounds found on his debut, in favour of something more ethereal and trip-hop infused.

However, it is new and so far unheard material that dominates the set at Gullivers, and the signs look very promising indeed.

The live show has been completely revamped, with a new band and some encapsulating guitar work that wasn’t so prominent last time around.

On a blizzard-ridden night in Manchester, the atmosphere is a complete antithesis indoors, where Ghostpoet has a sold out crowd hinging on his every word. There’s a genuine nature and love for his audience that radiates from  Obaro Ejimiwe’s character – a factor that makes every penny of the ticket price worth it.

Gullivers is the perfect place to see the set unfold. Tracks from the upcoming record Shedding Skin are broken up with ‘Survive It’ and ‘Meltdown’.

The last album was one that spewed the same stream of consciousness-style lyricism as its predecessor, but the subject matter and soundtrack was one that was more introverted, the musings of a lone mind lost in itself.

The new material comes equipped with a much bigger sound. There are snippets that suggest when Ghostpoet inevitably returns to bigger spaces after Shedding Skin’s gets its release, he has a set that can fill the room.

There’s something that feels more rock ‘n’ roll about the show this time around, with an extra member and less emphasis on the raved-out vibe that came before.

A true highlight remains in ‘Cash and Carry Me Home’ – the beat-heavy drinking anthem that never fails to tear the roof off. This is a final hurrah before the subject of an encore comes up.

It’s not as defined as that though. The packed-out audience have crammed right in close and the green room is at the back of the venue, leading Ejimiwe to decline the idea of leaving the stage.

Instead, he just exclaims ‘Who wants a few more tunes?’ and the room is electrified. His new single ‘Off Peak Dreams’ was previewed by Far Out a couple of weeks back and it sounds like an instant hit on the live stage.

It peaks, troughs and builds in a way that is often so absent in less crafted hip-hop, confirming him as one of the most interesting and versatile artists around. The new record is likely to be as big a hit with hip-hop addicts as it is fuzzed-out guitar lovers – and that can only be testament to Ejimiwe’s intriguing talent.

The set ends in the same way as Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam, with the anthemic sound of ‘Liiines’. The rendition has everyone encapsulated and truly wets the appetite for what looks set to be a great year for Ghostpoet.

Shedding Skin is released March 2nd on PIAS and fans will again get chance to catch Ghospoet live at the following dates:

01/04/15 – Button Factory, Dublin
02/04/15 – Electric Circus, Edinburgh
03/04/15 – The Kazimer, Liverpoll
04/04/15 – Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds
05/04/15 – The Exchange, Bristol
06/04/15 – The Komedia, Brighton
08/04/15 – Hare and Hounds, Birmingham
09/04/15 – Brixton Electric, London

Patrick Davies