Review: Michael Kiwanuka – The Kazimier, Liverpool

So, Radio One loves you, every one of your UK tour dates has sold out and earlier this year you came top of the Radio One Sound of 2012…justified? Abso-bloody-lutely!

Tonight it all became clear why this gentleman has received such an abundance of praise over the past few months.  Don’t get me wrong; I have been a passive admirer of Michael since the start of the summer months, however tonight I got it. Every element of his performance was entertaining and enjoyable, from his voice, his feel good songs, his talented band and his humble stage presence.

The support for the evening came in the form of three delightful ladies, The Staves.  They were utterly sensational; think Norah Jones…times three.  Stand out songs such as MexicoTongue Behind Cheek and their Mumfordesque acapella Brother demonstrated each talented and individual voice whilst at the same time gelling as a trio. Angelic harmonies, beautiful lyrics and true chemistry and friendship onstage…as their Twitter says, three is most certainly the magic number!

On to Mr Kiwanuka.  His mature voice is bursting with knowledge and wisdom, hinting to years of experience, almost as if it’s weathered the storm, it’s seen the world and is now offering these slivers of guidance and observation.  Twinned with his genuine and honest character, the audience were evidently compelled, hanging on his every word.  His speaking voice is so low it is almost inaudible however it changes dramatically when the rhythm starts – swooping and flowing through songs such as I’ll Be Alone and Need Your Company however, it retains its commanding nature and strong soulful element.

Tell Me A Tale sounds like a classic from the very first note.  One can imagine dancing around the streets of New York, in the streaming moon lights and swinging around lamp posts.  All of his music seems to have this overriding romantic vibe pulling you in every direction feeling somewhat familiar as if you know it well. The well known Home Again lived up to the crowd’s expectation, its soul and depth made it a contender for highlight of the evening, however his Bill Withers cover of I Don’t Know put up a strong fight too, a comparison his is very welcoming of. Encouraging the audience to sing along and get involved with the feel good tune, I had a particularly enthusiastic singer behind me who seemed to fancy himself as one of the Kiwanuka band members!

His sound is timeless and manages to combine the best elements of jazz, folk and pop with his voice remaining constant, while each songs brings something different and shows you yet another side to his ability as an artist.  It’s satisfying to see these hard working singer-songwriters receiving the attention they deserve, hopefully this can only get better and after meeting him briefly after the show I can safely say his feet remain firmly on the ground – let’s hope they stay there!

Ellie Witt