Live Review: Michael Kiwanuka & Bedouine – The Lowry, Salford

Last Wednesday night, Salford’s Lowry Theatre was whipped into a frenzy as it hosted both Bedouine and Michael Kiwanuka in a night of two halves. Both talents engaged the audience, evoked emotions and left audience members awe-inspired.

American singer-songwriter Bedouine opened the night. In spite of undoubtedly being the underdog act; a relative unknown, her vocal and guitar playing abilities spoke for themselves. Bedouine sang alone with only her guitar for back up, joking about being surrounded by Michael Kiwanuka and his huge band’s abundance of equipment – explaining she felt as though she was being “hugged by lots of expensive instruments”. In fact, it could be said that Bedouine’s music itself was a hug for the listeners. Her rich and smooth vocals captivated her audience on that cold and stormy night, as she performed tracks from her 2017 self-titled debut record. There were no frills to the performance, just plenty of raw, honest talent on display. As she lyricised about ‘honey’ and ‘wildflowers’, the artist’s listeners were filled with warm fuzzies.

Bedouine opened her set with You Kill Me, a track about space and freedom. Highlights included the whimsically pretty Nice And Quiet and upbeat One Of These Days. The artist also treated the audience to a brand-new song, which as yet remains untitled – Bedouine explained to the audience that were they to feel inspired to suggest a title, they should meet her at the merch table at the end of the set for a pitching session, charming (though my own idea was admittedly quickly dismissed at said table.). While Bedouine has a fairly cultish following at the moment, her talent and likeability stand her in good stead for great success, indeed there were lots of converted fans loitering around said table at the end of her set.

Bedouine’s raw and uncomplicated setlist was followed by it’s very own antithesis in Michael Kiwanuka’s almighty Love & Hate show. And what a show it was. Soul, sincerity and standing ovations were the order of the day last Wednesday for Michael and his fabulous eleven-piece band. While there is no question that the acoustics at the Lowry Theatre are second to none, there is something occasionally awkward about watching an artist like Kiwanuka in a seated venue. Yet, when a predominantly White, Northern English audience shrugs off the embarrassment of dancing around their chairs and seated neighbours to clap along to I’m A Black Man In A White World – you know something special is happening.

Race and politics, love and hate are issues all explored throughout Michael’s set, and the audience follow him every step of the way. While at times the show was fun and uplifting – there are other points where the audience were encouraged to take a moment to pause for thought, all while enjoying the musicality of the show. The show closed with the most hauntingly beautiful rendition of Father’s Child. The song was performed with pious conviction; each musician was given a moment to expose their own strength and talent before leaving the stage, while audience members could not help but be transfixed by the marvel of what was happening on stage.

Further highlights included the funky One More Night and old classic Tell Me A Tale. Personally, I adored Michael’s three, beautiful backing-singer’s whose vocals were spine-tingingly fabulous. The lights to accompany the music in the show were insanely good too. The entire performance was a triumph and the encore of Love & Hate with the infamous stone heart from the cover of Michael’s second album projected onto the screen behind the band was simply moving.

Michael has said this tour will be the last time we see him for a wee while. Well bravo Sir, you have left your fans with fond memories, hungry for more, and we look forward to your return.

Jessica Newsome