The Macbeth is an intimate space; its wooden panels and low lighting give it an almost living room feel. The evening opens with '2nd Exit', whose rough cut approach to jazz-based hip-hop plays to the venue's laid back feel. The duo, made up of Alfa Mist and Lester Duval, recline on the sofa to set the scene with their mellow mood rhymes.
Next up, it's headline time for Barney Artist. If there's one thing you can be sure about any Barney Artist gig, it's that it'll be full of energy. And no time is wasted on that front as DJ Buttery Hotness readies the crowd. Barney steps up to the stage and does his reputation justice almost immediately launching into the free flowing world of 'Painting Sounds'.
Barney Artist is a performer who gives you everything. And admittedly, it’s infectious. He confesses that tonight is his birthday and he’s intent on celebrating. And before long, we are. He’s not messing around either; as Nick Brewer joins him on stage to perform ‘Beep beep pt. 2’ his ability to spit fast but crisp bars is blatant. This is followed neatly by a flawlessly smooth Tom Misch-esque tribute to J Dilla (collab, please?).
He's funny too. With onstage conversation that would make great mid-album skits, he talks about how growing up in London he always wanted to be a grime artist (we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and picture Kano on stage for a minute given Forest Gate isn’t miles from East Ham). Yet he pulls it off, teaching the crowd the basics of grime as he whips out an impressive reload-fuelled glimpse at what that life could have been.
But it’s not all silliness. Talking us through his upbringing with a single mum, he gives us a flavour of more conscious rap in his song 'Leave'. He does the same in ‘Painting’, as he discusses the role music can play in bringing people together in an increasingly divisive country.
The night ends with a plethora of hits that cement Barney as a top performer. Bringing Jordan Rakei onstage for 'I'm going to tell you', the back and forth between Barney’s tight bars and Jordan’s soulful, smooth voice is blissful. This is followed by crowd-pleaser ‘Rubicon’ and his two delectably smooth Tom Misch collaborations, ‘Space’ and 'Stay Close'.
As his set draws to a close, he asks people to stick around to dance with him and celebrate his birthday. It’s not the first time he’s done this either and it makes Barney stand out from other artists.
He stands out not just as a rapper, but as an artist. Not just a celebrity, but as someone who really cares about his fans. Not just as someone who does things because he should do, but because he wants to. You can tell it’s natural because anyone forcing it would have run out of energy by now. This commitment is testament to his character and everything we like about supporting new music.