It doesn’t usually bode well for an impatient crowd when the roadie wheels out a leather armchair and a standard lamp for the main attraction’s arrival. Thankfully, Lonnie “Common” Lynn barely used his props except as signifiers that this wasn’t just his latest gig. It was also an exceptionally energetic episode of This is Your Life.
Even the smell of barbeque wafting in from the street outside added to a homely, nostalgic atmosphere while the rapper and actor, 47, guided fans from his first London appearance, supporting De La Soul 23 years ago, to this year, when he released a twelfth album and a second set of memoirs whose overriding theme is love. “Let Love Have the Last Word,” it said on his T-shirt, the title of his new book, while the album is simply called Let Love. “Taking care of self is the new black,” he advised on his soothing, optimistic new song, Good Morning Love.
While the book has its dark parts, including the claim that he was sexually abused as a child, and the album explores his flaws as a father, the mood here was celebratory. He described the way that hip hop had lifted him all the way from the streets of Chicago to a White House meeting with America’s first black president.
His six-piece backing band added jazzy flourishes to his crisp rhymes. The star proved to be remarkably agile – both physically, during a burst of breakdancing, and verbally, when he plucked a fan from the crowd and constructed freestyle lines around her name and a succession of London locations, including Nando’s.
Livelier parts such as The Food’s ringing piano line, and the Bobby Caldwell sample on The Light, kept Common’s people on their feet. All that love sloshing around was largely flowing in his direction.