Gig review: Brother Ali at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Brother Ali
Brother Ali
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“I’m under no threat of becoming rich or famous,” Brother Ali hums in his signature warm, coltish tone “…but this is because I’ve realised that the reason we do this is to use opportunities to be in a room full of people who feel different”.

‘Different’ is a subordinate term for Brother Ali, the man can only really be described as a hallmark for the unique.

The UK seldom has the honour of hosting Ali and considering a strong back catalogue spanning his 19-year career, you would be forgiven for entering the night apprehensively for fear of not hearing personal favourites or even expected hits to feature in the performance. However, after an explosive entrance with ‘Pen to paper’ the opening track to the new album and namesake of the tour entitled ‘All the beauty in this whole life’, Ali roars through anthems, album tracks and older gems much to the gratitude of fans starved of an opportunity to be in the presence of the legendary rapper for far too long.

Most notably, his utilisation of the medley format, so often used as a checklist of fan favourites by many of Ali’s peers, was handled in a much more substantial manner, instead of tantalisingly offering a split-second helping of venerate tracks. Ali hits hard with most features leaving only the tail verses behind and the rest executed to perfection. Gifting long-time fans with tracks such as ‘Walking away’ and ‘Take me home’ through to ‘Mourning in America’ and other more recent tracks such as ‘Pray for me’ with the chorus playfully adapted to suit followers of all spiritual paths, alternating between “somebody please pray for me” and “my atheists, meditate for me”.

The inclusive and all-round fervently, affirming theme of the night is testament to the genuine authenticity of Brother Ali; with Ali pausing between the main set and what would otherwise be called an encore, just so he could establish that this ‘pause’ certainly wasn’t an encore, as the pretense of waiting two feet out of view from the stage just isn’t in line with what he does. Instead, he breaks off from anecdotes and stage-filling songs, by giving the audience an insight into the spiritual and religious motivations behind his being. And finally, he concludes his set chauffeuring in the conclusive track ‘Us’, the perfect musical embodiment of Brother Ali, whose sense of presence is as rare as his UK shows.