Ghostpoet at the Button Factory, 1 April 2015
The scene itself seems suitably enigmatic. Pink and blue lights shine through hazy smoke, and a name glimmers against the backdrop of the Button Factory stage, announcing its mysterious star: Ghostpoet.
And yet, when he arrives on stage, it becomes clear that Obaro Ejimiwe, the man behind the moniker, is a far more tangible presence than his mystifying, almost-ephemeral songs might suggest. Indeed, it quickly becomes apparent that, for all of his atmospheric, poignant electronic sounds, Ghostpoet is actually a bit of a rock star.
It’s just something in the easy way he takes to the mic, lithely grooving along to the sounds of his backing band whilst uttering his lyrics in that enticing, intense sprechgesang voice. There is an entrancing, affable presence about Ejimiwe as he self-assuredly makes his way through his first five songs, including the upbeat swirls of Off Peak Dreams, the power ballad-esque sound of Liiines and crowd favourite Survive It.
This last track is perhaps a standout example of Ghostpoet doing what he does best – strange, ambient instrumentals and affirming lyrics with sweetly fragile vocals from the backing female. X Marks the Spot is a bit of a stormer too, with a growing intensity throughout. Throughout the set, Ghostpoet himself is an endearing presence, and the hardcore fans near the front chanting “Ghostie, ghostie!” certainly concur with that (“I paid them to do that”, Ejimiwe jokes with a smile).
And yet, for all that warm stage aura, there is something missing tonight – exemplified in the fans next to us singing along for the first half of the set but becoming increasingly distant through the night, chatting loudly and debating whether to go for a fag break. It’s not a reflection of Ghostpoet himself, but perhaps the music overall.
The latest record, ‘Shedding Skin’, was his first with a rock quartet, and maybe that’s what seems off about the live show – what he’s doing as a front man is rock star-esque, certainly, but it’s in his own intriguing, intimate way. The band behind him didn’t quite seem to have gelled with his output yet, and it leaves some of the crowd a bit restless (to the point where the encore seems a drag more than anything). Indeed, there are times where the melancholy songs seem to merge into one, with little to keep things fresh and exciting aside from the occasional, pleasant interjection from the man himself.
Perhaps this is all just because it’s the first night of tour, though, and things weren’t quite in place yet; Ejimiwe admits he had been apprehensive about getting back out on the road. For all of Ghostpoet’s fascinating back catalogue, and his undeniably charming stage presence, this April night in Button Factory was, unfortunately, somewhat underwhelming