It’s been a process of pure joy for Far Out to witness Young Fathers’ rise from angular mixtape creators to one of the most vibrant yet infectious bands in the UK.
We first caught them at a partially filled Deaf Institute four years ago, just days after the release of their first record proper DEAD, which of course was the catalyst for much of their headway into the mainstream when it won the Mercury Prize later that year.
Such is the nonsensical lag with awards shows, that by the time the Edinburgh trio won the award, it became a perfect piece of promo for its follow-up White Me are Black Men Too. Whether it was the timing, however, or more likely just a general aversion to such occasions, it was an iconically disinterested acceptance speech.
This time around, they have taken a little more time to return, seeing in 2018 with their third LP Cocoa Sugar and their biggest headline tour so far, which led us to Friday’s show at The Ritz, Manchester.
Even at the Deaf Institute show we were struck by Young Fathers’ ability to switch from visceral sounding industrial hip-hop to smooth R&B harmonies in the blink of an eye. Although the new record is far less raw than DEAD, the live show offers no fewer ear-splitting thuds than it did back then. The band have no qualms about still ensuring their debut LP – and even earlier mixtape numbers like ‘I Heard’ – are well represented.
Another area in which they have stayed true to their roots is through their reluctance to expand the live band as their revenue has increased. Still the trio are only joined by a single auxiliary band member, with drums provided throughout alongside an abrasive electronic backing largely operated by core vocalist Graham ‘G’ Hastings.
Lead single from Cocoa Sugar ‘In My View’ appears to have become an almost instant classic as the packed-out venue belt out the chorus arms aloft, proving there is most definitely a perfect balance to be struck between artistic progression and catering for the desires of an ever-growing mainstream audience.
Hastings then tackles the dilemma of the encore in typically understated fashion. “Shall we walk off and on again or just keep playing?”, he asks. Instead of waiting for an answer, the driving percussion of ‘Shame’ is the next thing we hear and The Ritz goes ballistic. They get better every time.