Culture > Concert review: Words First Live

Posted on June 16, 2016


Joe Marshall sees the next generation of literary geniuses perform original works

Spoken word poetry is one of the most exciting forms of artistic expression around today. On Saturday 4th June, six of its leading lights, aged 16-25, brought down the ceiling at the Roundhouse.

After six months of mentoring by some of the leading talent on the spoken word scene, their specially written pieces were something stunning to behold.

BBC Radio 1Xtra presenter DJ Target and stand-up poet Laurie Bolger played host to a perception bending evening. It was called Words First Live – the culmination of a year-long partnership between the radio station and the Roundhouse.

Solomon O.B really bore his soul. He had tears in his eyes during a piece about his experience in a foster family. It was as if he had so many happy memories of childhood, that he couldn’t contain himself. There was a pained, sincere tone to his voice, as if he was desperate to communicate with the audience before the words escaped him.

He actually shaved tuffs of hair off on stage, as if having a breakdown

Reuben Field had a nervy energy. His stage presence was like a theatre actor. He was likeable and earnest, at times talking about the day to day world of being in a relationship, but with a powerful knack for making small details poetic. Isaiah Hull’s words were reflective and solemn, even mournful. He had a pleasing sense of rhythm – something which can be lost in the emotion of spoken word. There was an extra dimension to his performance too. He initially feigned to be a bit ditsy, going off on different tangents, before an off stage voice ordered him to “do a poem”.

Amina Jama’s approach was down to earth. She spun verses peppered with homegrown humour. Asma Elbadawi did a similar thing. She took to the stage in a basketball kit (the sport is her other passion) and spoke of disillusionment with the excesses of society. The way in which money and status is valued over internal wealth was a common thread throughout the concert.

Liam McCormick was the rawest, most animalistic performer. He actually shaved tuffs of his hair off on stage, as if having a breakdown. His spiel was sweary, shouty and fast paced. He had the persona of a man on the edge, incarcerated if not literally, then by his environment.

He was desperate to communicate with the audience before the words escaped him

Alongside the new kids on the block, a trio of established spoken word giants flexed their vocal chords. Kojey Radical focused on hardships and mental turmoil. His half sung, half spoken pieces were a collision between Ghostpoet, Roots Manuva and Rage Against The Machine.

George the Poet brought his brand of street smart people’s’ poetry, questioning societal norms and celebrity culture. Kate Tempest’s set was extremely wordy and mind blowing, moving through politics to spirituality and everything in between. It was like a manifesto for a new era of consciousness.

Words First Live was part of The Last Word festival, which concludes with With A Little Bit Of Luck

Highlights from the Words First final will be broadcast on Radio 1xtra at 19:00, on Thursday 16th June

Joe Marshall
Joe Marshall is Exposure’s Entertainments Editor. With his written content he endeavours to raid the full remit of arts and culture in London, if he doesn’t drown in it first. He aspires to make a career out of journalism like his heroes Tom Wolfe, Hunter S Thompson and Jon Ronson before him.


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