I remember quite distinctly the first time I stumbled upon Michale Kiwanuka, I was stood in a tiny record store just off The Royal Mile in Edinburgh. I found a copy of the Home Again EP, going completely against the saying ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’, I decided to buy the EP simply because it looked like it had fallen straight out of the seventies. Alas my card was rejected, and iTunes had to suffice, but since that week I’ve always had a thing for Mr. Kiwanuka. His song writing seemed honest and most importantly authentic, he wasn’t trying to be any thing he wasn’t, he just wanted to make music. Therefore when it was announced he would perform in Exeter I was over the moon, then promptly rather aggrieved when it became apparent that tickets had sold out before I’d got round to getting one. So last Wednesday night as I waited to finally see him play live I was not only excited but a touch nervous, on account of my expectations being so very high. To say Michael did not disappoint would be a vast understatement.
In Cold Little Heart Michael Kiwanuka has a perfect opener, a slow repetitive synthesiser cut through the silence in the anticipating crowd, with bright white light beaming through the darkness, it felt like I had accidentally wandered into a Pink Floyd gig. Micheal waited to join his band, he sauntered onto the stage and started playing one of the most passionate guitar solos I’ve ever been witness to; from the moment he set foot on stage he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. The setlist was perfectly weighted, ducking expertly between ballads and toe-tapping soul. A prime example being the fact that he followed the emotionally charged and at points ponderous Falling with and an extremely high tempo rendition of Black Man In White World. The evening paned out brilliantly, by placing the climactic The Final Frame towards the end of the concert Kiwanuka created a feeling that the concert had been building to that point, Michael had taken his audience on a journey and this felt like it’s conclusion. It was a fitting ending to a majestic performance, the fact that the crowd was then rewarded with an encore of Home Again and Love & Hate was simply the cherry on top of an already extravagant cake.
Not only does he make his guitar scream but he also sings with more soul and power than almost any British musician currently on the scene. His vocal passion is more than backed up by his lyrical honesty and depth. After Wednesday night its easy to see why his fame and success is ever growing, Michael Kiwanuka has the potential to not only be a big artist in Britain but I across the globe. I left Colston Hall impressed and in awe, but mainly excited, excited because in October Michael is coming to Exeter and I honestly can’t wait to hear his wondrous voice again.
Photo credit: Billboard.