If you were paying even an ounce of attention last year, you’ll have come across Brent Faiyaz’s buttery instant R&B classic ‘Sonder Son’ album last year. Featuring twelve tracks of melancholy and meandering lyricism from the LA vocalist, ‘Sonder Son’ was Brent’s first solo release since 2016’s ‘A.M. Paradox EP’, and counted as his debut full-length project. As well as being part of group Sonder with record producers Dpat and Atu, Faiyaz is also a grammy nominated, platinum selling artist in his own right after featuring on Goldlink’s single ‘Crew’ alongside rapper Shy Glizzy.
With influences as diverse as Marvin Gaye and Frank Sinatra, Faiyaz’s ultra-smooth musical style culminated in him selling out two highly anticipated dates at the Hoxton Bar & Kitchen in London – where we headed down to the Wednesday show to catch Brent live, supported by north London’s very own Amber Olivier, and Diana Gordon.
The first immediately striking element of the show was the level at which people turned out for this – with Hoxton Bar and Kitchen full to the brim, and then some more. I arrived as north London’s Amber Olivier was just taking to the stage. Though a little nervous at the start of her set, it was pleasant to see her warm to the already full venue – “you have already helped to calm my nerves” she mentioned as the crowd cheered her on, “you lot are cool”. Already having created tracks with Masego and Sonder, both of which she performed, Amber’s sensual set was an apt opener for Brent, who she spoke about fondly in between numbers.
Eventually, we got to Brent Faiyaz himself on stage, confidently striding on in a red puffer jacket and bucket hat. Immediately animated from the start, he moved back and forth across the stage, constantly dancing along to his lyrics and all with an expressiveness that added immensely to his live show. Fun to watch on stage, Faiyaz joined by a live band offered a much fuller experience which added a dynamism to his tracks. Comprised of a bassist, drummer, and guitar player (who switched between acoustic and electric throughout the show), they complimented Brent vocally. Impressive in pulling off all the idiosyncrasies of ‘LA’, ‘So Far Gone’, ‘Gang Over Luv’, among other favourites, throughout the evening Brent was without fault.
It’s his first time in London, and Brent celebrated this fact by sharing a new word he said he has learnt: “There’s a long of pengtings in here tonight”, inspiring a well humoured cheer from the audience. At another point, he asked to see all the weed smokers in the room (which turned out to be about 90% of the audience), before playing ‘Burn One’. While these interactions were short, they helped to pace the evening, and gave us an insight into Brent’s amicable personality. With a keen eye on the crowd, he actually seemed to want to get to know us and at one point asked how many people in the audience were studying or working towards a dream, “photography, music, or whatever”, before dedicating ‘L.A.’ to the hustlers in the audience.
As the set drew to an end, the heat of the lights and stage meant Brent had stripped down to being completely topless, showcasing his numerous tattoos. Following a healthy set, covering just about every track you’d hope he’d play, (bar any of his Sonder catalogue such as ‘Too Fast’ which would have been a crowd pleaser), the lights dimmed and the band struck a final chord. “Join us at the after party – Ace Hotel” he hollered before leaving the stage, and taking the party further into the night.
Though they appeared to have fit in as many people as they possibly could into the Hoxton Bar & Kitchen’s doors, there were still fans unable to get tickets. Brent will be back, and the show will be bigger and it’s been clear that London is more than happy to carve him a home space here.