Neneh Cherry

Neneh Cherry


“I’m one happy grandma!” shouts Neneh Cherry, Addidas clad and writhing for joy. Now 50, the Swedish-born singer has more sass and attitude than some of today’s stars half her age.  I’m 24, and I feel exhausted watching her. 26 years since the release of her biggest-selling album, Raw Like Sushi (1989) Cherry graces the stage at Gorilla showing no signs of slowing down.

She follows opening sets from the ethereal female two-piece Carmen Villain, and rising star, Rosie Lowe. Channelling the electro-Scandi-sounds of Tove Lo and MØ, with pipe-rattling synth bass, Lowe is certainly one to watch. Her voice is faultless and backing band is unscrupulously tight – drums and harmonies executed with military precision. She was badly let down by the sound levels, with her vocals sometimes drowning in the mix. But certainly, watch this space. I predict big things here.

Back to Neneh though – and her set starts confidently with ‘Across the Water’. Her voice is accompanied only by sparse drum beats, and words appear behind her on the big screen. The projection is well-meaning but needs work; at present it’s a little too à la Powerpoint. Backed with the industrial beats of RocketNumberNine, who provide drums and synth, Cherry moves into album title track ‘Blank Space’ – a number that has popped up over the waves in recent weeks. The bass is ramped up for the purposes of live performance, cultivating a dub-step edge. It’s effective, and the crowd – composed of youthful crew-cut, oversized-glasses-wearing hipsters, and thirty and forty-somethings who clearly remember Cherry the first time around – love it. At barely £13 a ticket, unsurprisingly the gig is a sell-out, with people packed to the walls.


Neneh Cherry

“This next song is about the black dog”, Cherry  breathes into the mic, in her Swedish-transatlantic accent. Moving into ‘Spit Three Times’, the slow-moving, whirling synths are reminiscent of 90s hit ‘Manchild’. Then, grabbing what appears to be a child’s toy megaphone, she hurls into ‘Cynical’. It’s a crazed samba beat-infused number, that Cherry moves to in a military, marching motion. Her boundless, frenetic on-stage presence continues into ‘Weightless’. There are low points – her song ‘Bullshit,’ is, well, not much more than the name suggests. But all is saved by a mighty performance of ‘Manchild’. Once again, the synth-produced dub-bass provides an industrial, driving undertone, giving the classic track an urban, edgy update – in-keeping with her new sound. Coupled with her soft, smooth vocals, it’s undoubtedly the highlight of the night, with the crowd singing the words so loudly it’s sometimes hard to hear her. Her rap explodes with power and impact – timed to perfection. “Miracles and words in heavy doses?” That’s what this was.

  The rest of the night is peppered again with new material, from Everything, Choke and Dossier to Out of the Black – originally featured on new album Blank Space with fellow Scandi-star Robyn.  In between she speaks of her affinity with Manchester, and love of rice and peas in Moss Side. But the moment undoubtedly this crowd is waiting for is Cherry’s biggest hit, and Northern Quarter nightclub staple, Buffalo Stance. It sends people wild, but with a change of samples, it feels oddly lacking. I’m not sure whether the original samples were difficult to replicate with the current on-stage setup, or if Cherry fancied a change (given the track’s overplay on Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals), but it was a disappointment. Like the time I saw Morrissey performing ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’, without Johnny Marr’s jangling guitars – you cannot have one without the other. The song begs for its original samples. Regardless, Cherry put on a stellar performance. Diving into the crowd, people grappled forward to win the chance to dance with her. And dance they – and she – did – sweating, writhing and grinding. What you can’t fault Cherry for, is her inexhaustible spirit, reality and energy. I think it’s safe to say: borrowing from When Harry Met Sally – I’ll have what she’s having.

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I'm a huge music lover, being a regular gig and festival goer, singer songwriter, tv/radio presenter and reviewer for Silent Radio.