The lights finally go down, and the sample of Atlanta slam poet Ashlee Haze reverberates around KOKO. “I will show you a 26 year old woman who learned to dance until she felt pretty,” she orates. On record, the inclusion of Haze’s words make for a stirring introduction to Dev Hynes’ brand new album Freetown Sound. But somehow, hearing it in the company of around one and a half thousand UK fans who haven’t seen a Blood Orange headline show in years, it’s even more arresting.
With the venue filled to capacity, Crack’s new cover star feels the love and performs a sincere show for his day-ones and his new disciples, and the chorus of Freetown Sound standout Augustine radiates the crowd. It would be impossible to report on the show without praising the physicality of Hynes’ performance style. Channeling the rhythmic energy of Prince with the poise and strike-a-pose timing of the voguing demigods sampled on his album, Hynes is a total vision on stage. When longtime friend and collaborator Kindness joins him for an outing of Cupid Deluxe track On The Line, the chemistry between the pair is unmissable as they share the piano stool for the final chorus.
Crucially, the show was billed as “Welcome To Freetown” and it didn’t disappoint on that front. The more retro-focused influences of the record were brought to life by a cast of musicians who caught every lick and sax solo effortlessly. If it weren’t for this superb band joining him, the nuances that make Freetown Sound so riveting could easily get lost in the logistics of live performance. Thankfully, this was not the case. With such musical professionalism and an emotional atmosphere amplified by the homecoming narrative, this show was pure celebration.