WSTRN review – prescient, feelgood R&B and hip-hop

Islington Academy, London
The London trio’s first headline gig blends boyband-smooth harmonies with tough-enough rap and a revolving door of special guests to appeal to all ages

The party of sixtysomethings at the back of the Islington Academy are the odd ones out in a crowd of teens and tweens who have queued for an hour to see WSTRN’s first London headline show. They’re the grandparents and older relatives of band member Louis Rei and their presence is evidence of the group’s determination to restore what they term “that feelgood quality” to R&B and hip-hop. This genially shambling set, triangulated by cascading harmonies, trap and reggae flourishes and a revolving door of guest stars, felt not just good but prescient.

Voted best newcomers at last weekend’s Mobo awards, the singing rappers from west London – who also include Akelle Charles and Haile – are prospering by claiming territory previously overlooked by UK hip-hop. Their sweet-natured single, In2, became Britain’s top-selling debut by a group last year, seducing not just grandparents but younger people, who succumbed to their boyband smoothness and just-hard-enough beats. Rei, a striking collection of long limbs who’s the fans’ clear favourite, and his bandmates style themselves as lovers rather than fighters; they’re even willing to be bested by women, as proved by brief, fierce freestyles with guests Sinéad Harnett and Letisha Gordon.

In a show that sometimes lacked direction, with strong songs like Come Down subjected to mass plundering by more guests – scenesters Krept and Konan and Yungen among them – WSTRN’s greenness was obvious. They have the ear of the tweens – and the grans – though, so don’t underestimate them.

Watch WSTRN’s video for In2


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The Flaming Lips review – potent hit of feelgood psychedelia
The psychpop veterans throw rock’s greatest acid punch party, complete with confetti canyons, balloons and overgrown aliens

Mark Beaumont

22, Jan, 2017 @1:10 PM

Article image
Evelyn Glennie/Trilok Gurtu review – a feelgood percussion feast
Two big musical personalities celebrated Indian independence in hurried east-meets-west scratch project, rescued by Glennie and Gurtu’s conviviality and skill

Kate Molleson

02, Feb, 2017 @12:17 PM

Article image
The Knife review – farewell to the feelgood thunderers
The Scandinavian electropop pioneers bow out with a theatrical show that gleefully blends dance music with identity politics, writes Tshepo Mokoena

Tshepo Mokoena

07, Nov, 2014 @12:11 PM

Article image
The Family Stone review – feelgood funketeers do the classics justice
Though they lack the direction of their long-absent leader, the remaining Family Stone are tremendously tight

Malcolm Jack

29, Jun, 2015 @2:03 PM

Article image
Preoccupations review – blisteringly intense
The band formerly known as Viet Cong have changed monikers yet lost none of the ominous tension that defined their cathartic post-punk

Danny Wright

23, Jun, 2016 @2:49 PM

Article image
Kiss Me Kate review – Welsh National Opera cranks up the feelgood factor
A high-spirited cast reprise the classic musical with mischief and crowdpleasing comedy, backed by a luxuriant orchestra intent on enjoying themselves

Rian Evans

30, Sep, 2016 @11:16 AM

Article image
Morrissey review – bloodied but unbowed
Sporting a blood-soaked bandage and mourning recent celebrity deaths, the singer delivers an emotional set – and issues an enigmatic farewell

Dave Simpson

21, Aug, 2016 @12:55 PM

Article image
Peaches review – joyous, gender-mashing cabaret
The Canadian art-pop provocateur showed striking vocal control amid an endless parade of gigantic genitalia in a boundary-pushing show

Graeme Virtue

06, Nov, 2016 @2:46 PM

Article image
Gomez review – reformed post-Britpoppers prove prescient
Gomez’s psych, funk and electronics should be a mess, but on tour to celebrate the 20th-anniversary edition of their Mercury-winning debut it’s clear their songwriting really stands up

Alexis Petridis

25, Apr, 2018 @11:08 AM

Article image
Lucius review – meaty, beaty pop revelation
With their extraterrestrial twins-style outfits, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig lack recognisable hits but are cheered to the rafters

Dave Simpson

07, Apr, 2016 @2:14 PM