Oxford was about as ready for Young Fathers on a Monday night as it was for the Danes setting the entire city alight in the ninth century. ‘Can you dance Oxford?’ asks band’s provocateur G. He’s met with nods and mumbles. He asks again, ‘Oxford – can you dance?’ The crowd swallows as the trio kick off with ‘No Way’ from their Mercury-Award winning album, ‘Dead’. Is it possible to dance to a storm?
Mirroring the band’s logo that hovers above them like a shrine, the stage is stencilled with white light and its eerie shadow. Rhymes like ‘Never find peace the war is too pretty/ I’m wired wrong the girls don’t pick me’ and ‘AK 47 take my brethren straight to heaven’ set the night’s inciting, other-worldy tone. The rotating pyramid of Young Fathers is anchored by a slinky drummer who, with big beats and tight rhythm, we watch have his own euphoric party.
Alloysious, G and Kayus (all named after their fathers) have unique ways of engaging with the crowd. Limby Alloysious grooves in the quickening strobe. Perfectly lairy G puffs his chest and twists his hips like a tipsy badass. Kayus sings into the ball of the mic, his gold teeth glinting sparks in the light. It’s impossible for him, and in turn, the loosening crowd, not to explode with moves in climaxes of Get Up and newer single, Shame.
The fierce connection these three have to what they sing is borderline religious in its fervor – any one of them could be Rain or Shine’s ‘Mr Initiation’: ready to fly, ready to die. It is with this that Young Fathers seem like less of band and more of a movement. If there is such a thing as the Force, then it is here and now. Oxford, I think as I wipe the sweat from my forehead, your walls might soon again catch fire.
The remaining dates of the ‘Young Fathers’ tour are as follows…