Terminal West feel like an arena, swallowed by the melodic structure that is a Kiwanuka show. Yet, no intimacy was lost. I stood front and center as Kiwanuka hit the stage in a space that held likely around 400 people. The sounds vibrated across the room as if a listening experience on your headphones only left you satiated, but you were about to experience a full body show. The live experience caused me to zero in on his incredible vocal ability in a way I hadn’t digitally. He didn’t lose a beat, but also didn’t miss a note.
The show opened with the melodic album’s first track, Cold Little Heart. Though we were taken through songs from both of Kiwanuka’s albums, there were no transitions or pauses that created separation. Everything flowed seamlessly, transitioning smoothly his sounds from both his freshman and sophmore album. Further proving my last post’s prose, Kiwanuka's intention, tone, message, and musical maturity remains consistent and centered.
Kiwanuka’s entire band held their own. The bassist’s mellow vibes coupled with the percussionist’s intuitive nature to pull just about every percussion instrument out at the perfect time was quite magical. I wondered if this was Graham who he mentioned on the Song Exploder podcast (post note insider). The lead guitarist was actually Kiwanuka for most of the night, but his second-hand guy managed to take the audience away in moments. Though together, they were harmonized.
Truly, I have no complaints. Beautiful music, no pushing concert goers, and my friend and I were easily among the youngest in the room which made me proud. The sound was peak perfectionism. Kiwanuka even said he would love to play for us for the whole week if he could- the love was mutual. Imagine, Kiwanuka live on your car ride to work, in your shower, playing you to sleep, dreamy.
There was however a point in the night were sadness began to loom. One by one, band members played out and left the stage. Love and Hate was not yet on the table, nor had he performed Bones. I peeped the set list. I was immediate angry at myself for doing so though, because I could see myself leaving then feeling the show was incomplete.
I started rationalizing with myself that it was still a good show and maybe he just wasn’t feeling it, or time ran out, or that person who yelled his name threw him off. Before I could set my feelings on such thoughts, he reappeared ready to complete the set. Rejoicing flooded the room. I reveled in those last two songs that much more, happy to have experienced a Kiwanuka show for two and a half hours that easily felt like a fifth of the time.
Michael Kiwanuka is my Michael Jackson. Fight me. Obviously I don’t say this to knock Jackson off his pedestal, nor do I say this to draw meaningless comparisons. I say this to emphasize the magnitude of musicality I beleive Kiwanuka possesses and his potential to be a true pinnacle artist of this time. I mean, you can still fight me but it won’t count for nothing.©
images by Andy Paradise for the SWLondoner • special thank you to Tunespeak and Michael Kiwanuka
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