Michael Kiwanuka @ The Hope

Michael Kiwanuka’s place on the BBC’s ‘Sound of 2011’ was a pretty safe bet. Somehow, he has managed to capture a strong online audience, as well as an even stronger radio following. A feat far harder than people consider. Much of this could well be to do with his timeless sound. A combination of jazz and soul that harks back unabashedly to some of his early influences of Otis Redding and Bill Withers. It’s common to find bands taking a genre and giving it a ‘modern twist’. Michael Kiwanuka however seems more than content to reside within the boundaries of the genres that inspired him. From the number of people crammed into the intimate confines of The Hope, clearly, that’s no bad thing.

At a Communion night, the support slots may not sit naturally, but quality is always assured. This time from chirpy indie pop act We Were Evergreen warmed the crowd with their loop pedals and sugary harmonies. Sounding very much like a suburban Phoenix, even though they too hail from the French capital. With a tight set and plenty of interest from the much lauded label Kitsuné Maison, hopefully, much like their Parisian friends, they too can make their mark on British soil, and offer an alternative to the constant Phoenix comparisons any new French act has to bear. Whoops.

From the number of people though that began to enter the room as We Were Evergreen bade their thanks and left the stage, it was clear people only had ears for the headliner. Understandably given his incredible performance on ‘Later… With Jools Holland’ and regular BBC air time. Having taken the stage, Michael Kiwanuka serenaded the eager crowd with a stream of heartfelt songs from his soon to be released album Home Again. With a sound beyond his years, at only 24, the howling notes and crooning vocals had the crowd completely immersed. Reassured by his modest, welcoming stage presence. It was only as each song drew to its close that the eery silence of the room became apparent. Its continuation between tracks testament to the room’s intimate atmosphere.

There was still ample variety within his set, new track ‘Bones’ showed a different side to Kiwanuka, one happy to move away from the melancholy of his early demos. A flautist also took the stage to provide accompaniment for ‘Tell Me A Tale’, a track taken straight from his Isle Of Wight Sessions. With such a nostalgic sound, it was with no surprise that the night finished with a cover of Bill Withers’ soulful ‘I Don’t Know’. It was with this cover that Michael Kiwanuka’s place within modern music became apparent. He’s not here to push boundaries, or fit a particular mould. He is here carry the torch for the rich musical heritage of which he is now a part of, all just by playing the music he loves. From the final raucous applause that reverberated within the Hope, there’s obviously still a place for nostalgic pleasures in the ever turbulent music industry.

Check out an exclusive stream of the beautiful soon-to-be released ‘Home Again’ below.

Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again

Photos by www.rmaynardphoto.com