“Nealo, Nealo, Nealo..” The chants begin quietly as hip-hop artist Nealo takes to the stage for his very first headline show in two years. It’s been a big day, with the release of his long-awaited second album November Medicine hitting streaming services less than 24 hours earlier.
He’s joined onstage by Rebel Phoenix and Wallfella (who began the night with a rollicking set alongside Flynn Johnson and producer Odd Numbers) on backing vocals, a hush descends. The moment has come.
Featuring a blend of tracks from his latest work and his 2019 debut All The Leaves Are Falling, Nealo effortlessly creates a carefree atmosphere, fist-bumping old friends and supporters as he spots them in the crowd. Joined at times onstage by the likes of Jehnova and Morgana, as well as the odd chorus from the surprisingly dulcet-toned Wallfella, it truly felt like a celebration of one of Dublin’s most beloved musicians.
At times, Nealo’s performance was like witnessing the creation of a live mixtape, shredding typical gig protocol and rolling with whatever worked best, whether it be wandering through the crowd or chasing guests across the stage, kicking them as he goes. One of the early highlights was the performance of ‘Forest’, alongside his best friend Morgana (best known as half of Saint Sister, now a solo artist in her own right).
The beauty in Morgana’s voice contrasted gorgeously with the pain and passions of Nealo’s verses, with Direct Provision and Palestine’s troubles cited as reasons to doubt there can ever be happiness in the world. In a show of solidarity Nealo has placed donation buckets for Palestinian charities across the venue. The pair’s next track, ‘Cereal’, however brought the energy straight back to 100.
Next to accompany Nealo was Rebel Phoenix, who joined for one of the album’s highlights ‘What Colour Would Our Friendship Be?’ and a track from Phoenix’s latest album Museum. The most poignant moment of the night, however, was Nealo’s performance of ‘Rosemary’, the track dedicated to his mother. Loud cheers rang around the room as mother and son embraced, surrounded by loved ones.
By the time it came for the encore of ‘You Can’t Go Home Again’ and ‘Just My Luck’ the song that started Nealo’s solo career off the chants had reached a crescendo. Nealo’s name rang out loud, and deservedly so. Two albums deep, Nealo is just getting better and better. November Medicine may be but a day old, but there’s little doubt hip-hop’s Autumnal King has already reclaimed his special place in Dublin’s heart.
“Nealo, Nealo, Nealo…”