Michael Kiwanuka

– ALBERT HALL, MANCHESTER –

This is not a shameless plug but a relevant anecdote: on the day of the Michael Kiwanuka gig, I had a show on Reform Radio and a live pianist was playing live. He planned to play a Kiwanuka song but not, as he informed me, ‘I’m a Black Man In a White World’, which might have been a little difficult to nail… considering Olli, the pianist, is a white man from Hertfordshire, but also because, vocally, Kiwanuka delivers that song with a clear eyed passion that is hard to replicate, although his voice has been compared with the likes of Marvin Gaye and Otis Reading.

Later that day, in the beautiful surroundings of the Albert Hall, Kiwanuka opened with ‘One More Night’ from his second album, Love & Hate, which truly blew me away, not just because of his beautiful, bluesy vocals, but because of the sheer spectacle of seeing a band of musicians at the top of their game, playing in the grand setting of the Albert Hall, most notably the drummers, of which there were two.

Last time he was in Manchester, Kiwanuka played at the Deaf Institute. I wasn’t there, but I’m guessing he didn’t have two drummers. And yet, despite the larger venue and set up, Kiwanuka seemed at ease in front of a sell-out crowd.

Although for me, the crowd seemed a little flat. Down the front there was little movement and in the seated area, people acted as though their seats were booked and failed to move when my friend and I asked if we could sit down. The soul of the audience didn’t seem to reflect the soul on stage, which was jarring to say the least; I’m not a massive fan of punk music, but I think at least punk gigs have an atmosphere which is helped along by a friendly, passionate and engaged crowd, despite the apparent aggression of that type of music.

Fortunately, we weren’t there to make friends, we were there to listen to a new talent in UK soul. He certainly delivered a polished performance, but, for such an exceptional talent, it felt almost…disappointing? Where was the alternative energy? Where was the experimentation with his vocal range? Perhaps I choose the wrong gig to be musically challenged but I still felt he could have pushed those boundaries a little further given the musical talents at his disposal and maybe that would have got the crowd going.

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When people ask me what music I am in to, I find it very hard to give a definitive answer because, throughout my life I have been in to all kinds of different music from House to Heavy Metal depending on how old I was, what I was doing at the time and the kind of people I was hanging out with. So I can safely say I am open to most things as long as it’s good but obviously that is entirely subjective and open to interpretation, which I guess is what Silent Radio is all about. However, I would say that overall my alliances lie with Electronic Music because it covers so many genres and is constantly developing and changing. Having just returned from Sonar I felt a warm glow being surrounded by so many people who appreciate Electronic Music but there were times when I became a little jaded and questioned its integrity especially after seeing Katy B perform for the 3RD TIME! Will Katy B still be remembered in six years? I doubt it. But I guess that is the nature of Pop Music in particular; some stand the test of time, some don't. I think having grown up and lived in Manchester my musical tastes have been influenced by the club scene post- hacienda and the music at nights like Electric Chair which encompasses the sounds of House, Detroit Techno, Disco, Soul, Funk and Hip Hop. Basically anything with a groove, I like. But this is not confined to Dance Music I particularly like bands that are melodic and have a hook such as Wild Beasts, music that captures an emotion and has a heart. While at University I was also listening to music that didn’t really have much of a heart but more of a pacemaker in terms of the emotion it conveyed and that was Electro-Clash, a completely non- sensical and at times ridiculous genre that borrowed elements from House, Italio Disco and Techno and re- formed them in to one fun, but ridiculous package. While at University, I had my own radio Show where I tried to convey some of my musical tastes acquired from up north and had guest DJ's from a night in New Cross called Zombie Disco, with Jamie from Zombie Disco now working with Lindstrom. We also borrowed the services of Rina from Ladytron who had a guest DJ slot. Anyhow, I think it is safe to say I like a wide range of music apart from Katy B, sorry Katy.