MICHAEL Kiwanuka last played the same very venue of the Ritz in 2012, but does history repeat itself with the inclusion of a second album up his sleeve?
On the last night of his UK tour, Michael Kiwanuka played a sold out show to a hugely appreciative audience who sang back every lyric of his songs. His confidence in himself has grown and it shows with a self-assured performance that satisfies the audience thoroughly.
With an early curfew set for 10pm, support act Isaac Gracie took to the stage early at 7:15pm. The 21-year-old from Ealing has slowly been gaining in popularity after signing to Virgin EMI earlier this year and releasing his debut EP ‘Songs From My Bedroom’.
Isaac Gracie gave minimal introduction, simply cleared his throat into the mic before starting his set. His voice captivates the moderately sized audience, and the crowd gradually fills up throughout with Gracie playing to more and more people as the set went on.
He chats with the audience saying: “It’s the end of the tour and I still don’t know how to finish a song” and proceeds to throw his hands up in the air in a helpless manner. Next he plays ‘Last Words’, his debut single with heavy influences of Jeff Buckley, followed with a new song, warning the audience with a laugh: “This one’s new so I might get it wrong”.
Gracie finishes his set with ‘All In My Mind’, a song that could easily be sang by James Bay, and with Gracie’s long hair and electric guitar, you cannot help but compare him the two. Gracie however, could definitely benefit from a backing band to really highlight his talent as a frontman.
Just after 8pm Michael Kiwanuka’s keyboardist takes to the stage to start the set with a harmony of chords belonging to ‘Cold Little Heart’. Kiwanuka himself appears soon after, sporting his recognisable denim jacket, before later being joined by his backing band, made up of a guitarist, bassist, drummer and percussionist.
After that 10-minute long epic Pink-Floyd style number, Kiwanuka launches into the lively and instantly catchy ‘One More Night’ and ‘Tell Me A Tale’, with added reggae detail. Despite marking Kiwanuka’s first British headline tour in four years, the crowd are receptive ‘bobbing’ their heads along to his music.
Taking a break from his soulful numbers, Kiwanuka tells the audience: “This is one of my favourite venues in England…and…everywhere” before playing the heartfelt track, ‘Faling’, also taken from the album ‘Love and Hate’.
Before launching into the groovy ‘Black Man In A White World’, which he co-wrote with producer Inflo and deals with issues of race, anxiety and identity. Kiwanuka involves the crowd asking them to accompany him by clapping along throughout.
After playing ‘Always Waiting’ from his first album ‘Home Again’, followed by ‘I’m Getting Ready’ and ‘Rule The World’, Kiwanuka thanks for the audience for putting up with the gig being pushed forward for ‘a freshers thing’ and introduces the next song ‘The Final Frame’ as ‘a slow-jazz one for the couples’.
‘Father’s Child’ sees Kiwanuka and his band jam the song out to the very end, leaving the stage separately with just the keyboardist left to play the final chords. The stage and venue is then placed into darkness. The audience, not ready to leave just yet, shout and cheer for more until Kiwanuka and his band reappears for an encore. He performs a cover of Prince’s song ‘Sometimes It Rains In April’ in dedication to the late artist and finishes the set with his album’s namesake ‘Love and Hate’.
Interestingly, Kiwanuka’s set is predominantly new songs taken from his album ‘Love and Hate’, and he only played three songs from his first album. The hit single ‘Home Again’ was surprisingly left out of his set but the audience didn’t seem too disappointed with that decision.
After claiming he wanted to give up making music after his first album, Michael Kiwanuka’s second album and live shows demonstrate a man who has matured greatly. Kiwanuka said himself: “The confessional aspect is cathartic for me”. With such artistic development from someone who started his career as a session musician, he has truly transformed himself into a performing artist.
By Sarah Goodyer