April 20th 2012
Type 'North Carolina Top Ten' into Google and you'll be presented with attractions like: Art museums, amusement parks and a Great Smokey Mountain National Park. 'Art', 'amusement' and 'smokey' are apt words to describe North Carolina’s son, Anthony Hamilton, and his performance at the Indig02 on Friday evening.
That customary, smoky voice kicked off with an all singing, all dancing intro, accompanied by eccentric and energetic backing dancers/singers/entertainers (boy they know how to do it in the States). Pandemonium ensued when the artist dropped classics like Cool and Coming From Where I’m From.
The sexy, Jairus Mozee-produced Best of Me provided one of the biggest cheers of the night, save classics, which were yet to come. Mr. Hamilton sang with equanimity and panache and this was one of the many times in the night when the men must have thought they came alone as their ladies' eyes were transfixed on the star. A sigh of resignation seemed to emanate from the fellas, knowing they had lost their women (albeit temporarily) to the Grammy Award winning star.
Not many artists have the audacity or skill to attempt a Prince song but Mr. Hamilton did the Purple Rain singer proud with his rendition of Adore, sung with sultry tones and a soulful honesty. Drinks were raised aloft and heads were tilted to the floor, shaking in appreciation.
Amuse he did when Anthony Hamilton's playful side came to the fore with his improvised melody about the Union Bar (located across from the Indigo), stating that he would be there after the show. Cue ladies glancing at the exit doors in an aid to escape as soon the singer's set finished. At this point, almost all feet were sliding; almost all arms were in the air save one character in the corner rubbing his hands with glee. The Union Bar manager, perhaps?
The singer praised North and South Carolina before delivering the poignant and soulful Pray For Me, which was followed by the Reggae-fuelled Everybody. The latter’s slow tempo had people sliding and couples edging closer. The R&B star joked: “they didn't get it in the States so I had to go to my second home", which went down well to the loving crowd.
The soul singer concluded (much to the audience’s disappointment) with classic hits including Who's loving you now and Charlene.
The audience was also treated to cameos from up-and-coming artists Nathan Devonte and Linah Nambooze who opened the show.
March 28th 2012
Not forgetting my background in teaching, I took to the streets of London (starting at Malet Street) with my camera in one hand and a flannel in the other (22 degrees in March - what a treat).
I hope the strike was not in vain and that the government review their plans regarding teachers' pensions and working until they're/we're 68.
Two, four, six, eight...
March 16th 2012
In North London it is expected that an export from the Netherlands should be destined to leap to our attention, causing the masses to stand and take notice. Sorry Robin, the natural order may have just changed; there is a new Dutch master in town. Enter Caro Emerald, the funky and sassy #1 Dutch jazz artist, who put it an exceptional performance at The Roundhouse.
Although tracks like You Don’t Love Me and Mistaken Identity formed her introduction to the stage, it wasn’t until the groovy Back it Up got underway for the waiting crowd, where Caro got everyone involved (by emphasising their British accents) and the gig really came to life.
There was something of a 1950s sound to Dr Wanna-Do; its tongue in cheek lyrics and sax solo proved to be the right tonic for some of the ailing legs in the crowd.
Caro Emerald introduced Just One Dance, which was inspired by the film: The Quiet American. Her skit, ahead of the track, rendered her quite endearing when she reminded the audience of whom they came to see, tenuously pointing out her brilliance.
Her vocal prowess was evinced during her a cappella before The Other Woman, a track which wouldn't be out of place as the theme to the upcoming James Bond film, Skyfall; even the guitar solo would have made Mr. Van Halen stand up and take notice.
After a rousing encore, the crowd was treated to the (never recorded in the studio) Close to Me, which was dedicated to a special someone at home, and a heart warming performance of the classic Dream a Little Dream by Mama Cass.
After this performance, which eclipsed her last London appearance at the Shepherds Bush Empire, it is easy to see how Caroline Emerald’s album Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor has set an all time record in the Netherlands.
March 9th 2012
Anyone who thought these guys (considering their age) couldn't still cut it at this level was in for a surprise. Class is permanent.
The Stranglers, minus nooses, were at their best, churning out songs from their albums, which span decades. They started with Burning, getting heads to nod in unison and the crowd found their nirvana.
Unbroken and Time got the crowd banging their feet and waving their arms.
As expected, pandemonium transpired when the band teased the audience with the initial chords to their biggest UK hit, Golden Brown, which was played with a nonchalant coolness. Cue sing-alongs, whistles and swaying mobile phones. It would have taken the most discerning ear to notice a difference between this version and the crispness of its initial recording in 1982.
Mr Bacharach would have had to search far afield to find fault with The Stranglers' psychedelic and extremely funky rendition of Walk on By, which, as predicted, got the crowd moving. The drum and guitar duo in the bridge catered to the hardcore fans.
Although the age of the crowd and the band members was similar, it was refreshing to see cohorts of young rockers in the Roundhouse which is testament to the band's staying power coupled with their ardent, avid following.
A new track: the up-tempo Giants (album title track) produced melodic tones and caught many audience members by surprise with its catchiness.
Peaches was, excuse the pun, played like a peach. Simple. The lyrics were sung with the sexual tension that's so prevalent in the song. Grunts by lead J.J. Burnel was the catalyst to the final exhales of the dutiful crowd.
Another new track, Mercury Rising, was upbeat, had heavy bass with strong chords and was a crowd favourite. However, the band stayed true to their punk/new wave roots with Lost Control and Shuddup.
Whether Giants charts as high as No More Heroes and Rattus Norvegicus remains to be seen but one thing is certain: quality prevails.
The Wimbledon born Mike Marlin, who played tracks including The Magician, supported the Stranglers. The Popes also had their share of the stage playing tracks from their albums including the anthem Don't let the bastards drive you down.
Naturally 7 Barbican Review
By Anthony Keiler
The rapturous applause that led to the magnificent Naturally 7's encore was a testament to their ability to wow the crowd with what they call 'vocal play'.
Play they did from the outset with a rousing performance of their hits including Wall of Sound and Jericho, sending the crowd into raptures.
Naturally 7's unique blend of hip-hop, improv jazz and sultry soul with swagger, coupled with their ability to cause listeners to guess who is ‘playing’ which instrument is just part of their appeal. Their precision and quality was evinced during one part when each member was ‘switched’ off and on again, allowing the audience to discover who played what.
The American septet ensured that every musical taste was satisfied, reflected in their switch from upbeat tracks like Jericho and the ‘Everything She Wants’ sampled Life Goes On to their classic take on In the Air Tonight. Naturally 7’s medley of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence, Scarborough Fair and April Come She Will had the audience in a trance as they performed without mics at the front of the stage.
If the quality of the group's vocals wasn't enough, the audience went wild at the sight of the members' dancing, which was executed with impeccable accuracy. Their vocal wizardry was matched with slick moves and seemingly effortless choreography.
Unknown to the group their hunger for excellence, performing and entertaining would be matched by the equally hungry audience for more vocal play, more dancing and for the ladies in the audience: more Hops. He teased the audience with his low bass.
Clapping ensued before the group returned to perform final songs to the cheers of the audience. A humorous highlight came at the sight of Hops and Warren (the ‘drummer’) shaking and waving their arms and hips to the band’s dedication to ‘music of yesteryear’ in the night’s finale.
Muntu Valdo, the Cameroonian singer-songwriter, returned to the Barbican opening the evening with songs from his latest album, The One and the Many. He bonded with the audience with the poignant No Mercy.