It’s less than a mile from the old Bongo Club to the Edinburgh International Festival HQ at the Hub, but in cultural terms, it’s light years. Tonight, Young Fathers complete that journey in triumphant fashion. The boys from the Bongo’s hip-hop night are now the men centre stage for the Festival. “I’m ‘a take a shit in your palace,” they sing on Low. This could have felt like that: hip-hop taking the opportunity to plant a stinky one right in the heart of the cultural establishment, a two-fingered salute. It doesn’t. If the Edinburgh International Festival is Scotland’s cultural gateway to the world, staking the country’s claim to international arts significance, Young Fathers show they’re game for it, as much as any ballet, theatre or opera company ever could.
The acoustics of the Hub turn their sound swampy and close. It might not be an intentional effect but it works. Vein-poppingly intense vocals are backed by hard, thumping drums, with strobe lights hammering the point home. Kayus Bankole strips to the waist, Alloysious Massaquoi pounds the crap out of a stagefront floor tom, ‘G’ Hastings shouts to the rafters when he’s not knob-twiddling. It’s intense. The organ hook of Rain Or Shine is perfectly at home in this old Church of Scotland building, and imprints itself on the brain long after the gig. Get Up is resplendent. Old Rock ‘n’ Roll has the place throbbing.
The crowd are rapturous throughout too. ‘This is a new one!’ is rarely a welcome shout from the stage. Here, it gets half the crowd whooping. And the new one proves a stonker too, lyrics about what only God knows adding verbal depth to musical muscle.
They leave at their peak to a squall of white noise, after some mainly unintelligible but no doubt unarguable shout-outs about us all being migrants. They might not say much, but the music does a lot of talking. This is a joyous evening.