Live Reviews

LIVE REVIEW: Kano, O2 Academy, Birmingham, 14/02/2020

Photo Credit: Olivia Rose

Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise; rap is poetry. To paraphrase Akala, it’s like Shakespeare, with a little twist. Take it a little further, and rappers are artists, every bar is a brushstroke on a blank canvas.

Going by that logic, grime veteran Kano is on the same level as Michelangelo, and had he not ripped the roof of it, his performance at Birmingham’s O2 Academy on Friday night would’ve been his own version of the Sistine Chapel. Whatever your plans were on Valentine’s Day, nothing would have topped this performance.

For those of you that know Kano, you’ll know that nothing is done by half. His latest album, Hoodies All Summer, was a masterpiece of production, structure, and most importantly; lyrics & flow. Translating this album from the studio to the stage could well have flopped, but with a backing band, backing singers, and a brass section to boot, it was another level above unreal.

Opening with Free Years Later, there was a wonderful simplicity in the show. Kano and his band were all dressed in black, as if they were just popping out for some milk, with no over the top stage production. Just a man, a band, and his bars. That’s all you need.

One thing that could do with crossing the border between a rap show & a rock show, is the introduction of wheelups into a rock show. Rock shows of all varieties are good fun, but when was the last time a crowd got so gassed at a guitar solo or a big riff, they had to restart the entire song? On Friday night, Kano was rivalling Heathrow for the number of wheelups inside an hour and a half. Hell, even 3 Wheel-Ups got wheeled up. Does that make it 4 Wheel-Ups?

Speaking of which, the crowd were fantastic. You could feel the electricity in the room from the second the lights dimmed and the band took to the stage, right through to the end of the show. In fact, the crowd were a problem, in that the volume & energy from them at certain points of the show drowned out Kano. The crowd can make or break a set, and the crowd made the show even better than it was.

The setlist was jam-packed full of hits, covering the start of Kano’s career, right through to Hoodies All Summer, with an obvious heavy bias towards Hoodies All Summer, the only track not making an appearance being Bang Down Your Door. Highlights are genuinely difficult to nail down, but special mention should be given to This Is England, SYM and Can’t Hold We Down.

Kano’s delivery was brilliant, with his stage presence exemplary, covering every inch, making sure everyone from the front to the back, up to the balcony, was acknowledged. There was a real honesty in his performance too, he looked delighted to be there, and enjoyed every second of it. He’s been a legend since the beginning, but a performance like this cements his status as one of UK grime’s finest.

The only downside? At about half-past ten, Kano, with his band, got off the stage and that was the end of the show. However, the hour and a half prior more than made up for it.


Written by: Oliver Butler