They’re no good at receiving cheques but Young Fathers had no problem delivering a powerful, vital live show. Since they won the Mercury Prize and Scotland’s SAY Award this year, worth £20,000 each, the story has been repeated all over: “Scottish hip hop trio (who knew? I thought it was all Del Amitri up there) fails to smile when handed vast sums of money.”
The band’s manager took the media to task after the Mercury win. “Young Fathers reacted with seriousness because that’s how they treat their art,” he wrote on a music website. Fair enough. Here they made no concessions to the masses — half an hour late, no “Hello London!”, no thank yous, no encore — yet they were absolutely thrilling.
I saw them at a festival last summer and they were all wrong in the sunshine. In this shadowy club, low ceiling pipes and claustrophobia, they were a revelation, jostling together with guest singer Law — a shaven-headed singer so intense that she could be the next Bond villain.
With roots in Liberia, Nigeria and Edinburgh, beats and buzzes clashed and scraped against each other on tracks such as No Way and Rumbling, during which Kayus Bankole danced so hard that his bun of hair became spaghetti. Low, their prettiest tune, was harnessed to crashing drums that threatened to bring the roof down. Never mind acceptance speeches — they’ve got this element completely right.