Kano had a fantastic year in the world of music and TV with a critically acclaimed gem in ‘Hoodies All Summer’ which encapsulates some of the themes he tackled in his starring role as Sully on Netflix’s ‘Top Boy’ based in East London. Across 10 tracks, Kano provides a snapshot of the current state of the ends from the eyes of many as his nimble, considered bars cut through a rich palette. It’s no surprise, the 34-year-old Grime legend sold out his London leg of the Hoodies All Summer Tour which was held in The Drumsheds, deep in the heart of Meridian Water. Accompanied by a live band and a quintet of backing singers – including Lil Silva who features on ‘Got My Brandy, Got My Beats’ – Kano was ready to bring his sixth album to life. Read on as we capture how the night went down.
It felt like I was on my way to Wireless the way that small groups kept popping out of Tottenham Hale station. That being said, it’s not every day one of the most influential grime figures comes out for a show of this size, let alone selling it out in mere minutes. A bad combination of roadblock traffic and the impending storm Ciara made it trickier for the crowd to arrive promptly – having to take an extra half hour on the journey meant missing Footsie’s opening set – but as they say, the show must go on. Surrounded by scaffolds and huge steel walls, I surveyed the venue as the crowd grew more eager to see its star attraction for the night. As the large spaces in the crowd suddenly got smaller and personal space got tighter, bodies unwillingly swayed from side to side like a crashing tide. One by one, the lights in the venue dimmed as the band assembled on stage.
Strings played out to the crowd as the ominously familiar intro to ‘Free Years Later’ grew louder, the familiar sighting of phones and lights soon followed as we waited for Kano to take the room. Without further ado, a rugged figure dressed in all black walked on stage to loud cheers and excitement. “Glass half empty, waking from dreams, chasing my fears, I ain’t never cried so much tears in all these years.” Kano’s ability to load his verses with humour, knowledge and charm was clear to witness as he warmed the crowd. Although this was dubbed the Hoodies All Summer Tour, KA wasted no time in digging into the vault as he let off the classic pairing ‘Ghetto Kyote’ and ‘P’s & Q’s’ to rapturous applause. A customary wheel up soon followed as energy in the room was on high. I heard someone in the crowd say it wasn’t a great venue for a Grime show – they probably didn’t feel the grungy elements of his music vibrate off the steel walls, amplifying the sound in the process!
His interactions with the crowd were awesome, brief exchanges and a flash of his wide grin would turn into cheers and at one point, a long, standing ovation as the crowd needed no reminder as to who was gracing the stage. There is no ‘Hoodies All Summer’ without ‘Made in the Manor’ and his inclusion of ‘This Is England’ and ‘T-Shirt Weather in the Manor’ displayed a sort-of continuation of the themes on his latest LP. Allusions to considered social commentary are put on hold for Kano to revel in the beauty and shortcomings of the ends; and England as a whole. The warmth of the live band accentuated the music and was a regal touch for Grime royalty. Hopping around in his black Adidas NMD’s, you could see the gratification on his face, and adulation in the crowd.
As the night drew on, Kano’s secret weapon was hiding in plain sight as we would soon find. When ‘Got My Brandy, Got My Beats’ started to play, I recognised one of the more solemn album cuts as Kane lamented over a split with his love, as the brandy and beats soothed his loss. Lil Silva, featured artist and backing singer on the night, shone as his crooning cut through the low tempo track, making the room feel heavier as we empathised with the feeling of loss. Track 10 on the album ‘SYM’ – also known as the worst thing you could say to someone from London – saw the other four members of the backing quintet assist Kano with quite possibly the cheekiest song on the album. The end result felt as thought we were hearing a processional hymn on a Sunday morning, yet the sheer defiance of the song radiated around Drumsheds.
At times it was hard to just stand and admire the man from ‘The Manor’ as he worked the room, the transitions on the setlist bore a duality of pensive duty (‘Endz’, ‘A Roadman’s Hymn’) and stage show prowess (‘Trouble’, ‘3 Wheel Ups’ sans Wiley and Giggs), an extension of ‘Hoodies All Summer’ as a whole. For the most part, he held the crowd down on his own as a stage show don should do, but that was due to change. The timeless “OOOARR OOOARR” adlib sounded through the room, as a languid figure appeared from the shadows. D Double E took his place alongside fellow Deja FM alumni Kano as 2019’s undeniable Grime anthem ‘Class of Deja’ rang out, with a slew of moshpits following. Once Ghetts joined the tandem to form a trifecta, the crowd hit pandemonium as their epic back and forth unknowingly doubled as a cue for the crowd to recite lyrics too. Once “mutual friends wanna ask why did I, what… WHY DID I?!?!” was heard, it momentarily felt like were at a pirate radio set at the height of Grime’s hysteria.
In the end, Kano left his indelible mark on Drumsheds like Skepta and Earl Sweatshirt before him, proving that Grime doesn’t need a shrine for a stage. He’s been making music for a long time now; his springy step and charisma never fail to shine even when the sun takes an absence of leave. By the time the whole band took it’s bow in front of 10,000 plus people, the weighty gravitas of ‘Hoodies All Summer’ was replaced with the feeling of being uplifted by the ghetto gospel of appreciating the good times. A good time is certainly what Kano delivered as he proved that he can bring ‘The Manor’ to anywhere with a mic and some speakers.