Neneh Cherry


Neneh Cherry is the absolute boss. Here she is on stage at the Albert Hall, absolutely killing it in support of her recent Four Tet and 3D (of Massive Attack fame) produced album Broken Politics, an album that has rocketed her to the kind of critical acclaim that came with her seminal debut album Raw Like Sushi, and it’s heartwarming to see how absolutely thrilled she looks at the adoration coming back to her from the crowd. She is positively beaming after every song, removing her earplugs so she can take it all in, basking in the warmth of the wild applause and whoops that greet the end of every song. It’s wonderful to see someone who, in all honesty, could be a heritage act touring said debut album on a wave of nostalgia for the late 80s/early 90s, almost ignoring her back catalogue in favour of playing pretty much the entirety of her brilliant new album. She doesn’t appear to give two fucks about pleasing some of the older members of the crowd (a few who, having been down the front at the start and unprepared for the rumbling bass and dance beats that follow, are now making their way the back), and it’s wholly refreshing.

She starts off with the gorgeous ‘Fallen Leaves’, stumbling adorably over the 2nd verse (which she blames on an extended lunch at local steak palace Hawksmoor), the twinkling Four Tet harps taken straight from his Morning/Evening album sounding wonderful, Cherry telling us, “Just because I’m down/Doesn’t mean you can step all over me” in her beautiful voice, it is a beguiling start. She immediately ups the ante with the stomping ‘Shotgun Shack’, the two DJs at the back creating a shuffling 90s beat which Cherry sings and raps over, stalking the stage and meaning every word she’s spitting.

What follows is one of the highlights of the evening, an extended trip hop jam in the form of ‘Deep Vein Thrombosis’, the bass absolutely tearing through the venue as Cherry repeatedly skanks, whipping the crowd up; it’s a lost Massive Attack collab that beats anything they’ve done in the last decade. She plays a song from her little known previous album Blank Project and it’s basically an extraordinary jungle rave up – if you’ve come to see ‘Manchild’, then you’re probably currently very disappointed. ‘Synchronised Devotion’ is utterly exquisite, Rosie on the xylophone accompanying a beat-less Cherry in bewitching fashion, the crowd in hushed awe.

Obviously she’s not going to ignore the whole back catalogue business completely, and sure enough ‘Manchild’ gets a rousing response, but nothing that matches the response she gets when she plays ‘Natural Skin Deep’ from Broken Politics, the air horn intro ripping the venue into a full early 90s rave up, Cherry repeating “my love goes on and on” over and over as the steel drum sample ripples behind the beats, strobe lights flashing, air horn punctuating the whole thing, it’s shit-eating grin stuff.

She leaves the stage after a poignant ‘Soldier’, returning for the inevitable encore which throws up a major surprise. Alluding to doing a cover, she actually plays her 1994 collab with Youssou N’Dour, ‘7 Seconds’, with one of the DJs taking the N’Dour role, and it’s ridiculously good, a stunned crowd singing along to one of the very best songs of the 90s, and all of a sudden nostalgia is the greatest thing ever. Followed by a barnstorming ‘Buffalo Stance’, Cherry has sated the older (and younger, tbf) crowd’s thirst for the ‘hits’ whilst still maintaining her current hipster credentials, it’s quite the feat. Her parting grin says it all; this has been a masterclass in reinvention, remaining relevant, and also nodding to your past. Extraordinarily good.

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