Great Hall, Cardiff University Students Union, Sat 1 Feb
Long before he arrives on stage, Kano’s name reverberates around Cardiff University’s Great Hall. The chants aren’t just an afterglow of the day’s Welsh rugby victory, but a well-earned hail to one of the keystones of UK hip-hop. Eventually, the man himself bounces on, grinning like he’s walked in a family reunion. He’s joined by a rotating company of trombonists, sousaphone players, DJs, and a pianist. There’s even a five-piece choir, who provide a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek “suck your mum” gospel chorus intro for SYM. Sweaty basement grime this is not.
The Top Boy star hasn’t forgotten his origins though. A freestyle over the top of classic 00s grime instrumental Ghetto Kyote transitions beautifully into breakout single Ps & Qs, erupting the room like a flame to a powder keg. After six albums and almost 15 years on the mic, Kano’s still got it. Mellower tracks from 2019’s Hoodies All Summer dominates the rest of the setlist: Good Youtes Walk Amongst Evil is a masterclass in storytelling that is delivered with trademark precision flow.
However, it’s the cuts from predecessor album Made In The Manor that pack the most punch live. This Is England sounds more vibrant than ever with the weight of live brass and 1,600 fans shouting the chorus. We leave tonight with our hearts full and our throats sore. It’s a double win for Welsh fans; for the rest of us, Kano’s given us more than enough to celebrate.
words and photos JASPER WILKINS