Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Michael Kiwanuka at Cardiff Tramshed

This was my second visit within a few weeks to Cardiff’s newest major city-centre concert venue, The Tramshed, and it was a transcendent experience.

First up was a solo set by youthful, lank-haired troubadour Isaac Gracey, whose folk-tinged, electric and acoustic guitar-led balladeering went down very well. His original material was pleasingly melodic, and delivered in a strong, confident voice – he did mention that his only previous visit to Cardiff was on a choir tour. There were also a couple of Bob Dylan covers, in tribute to the great man’s long overdue recognition by the Nobel Prize committee.

Headliner Michael Kiwanuka’s act kicked off in the same way as his new album, with the lengthy, keyboard-led, Pink Floyd-inflected introduction to “Cold Little Heart”, which cleverly set up the tone of his set, dominated as it was by extended, atmospheric extemporisations.

Michael Kiwanuka

Music industry marketing being what it is, Kiwanuka is tagged as a “soul” singer - and his voice comes across somewhat more powerfully than it does on record - but what his five-piece backing band (including two drummers) delivers is as much influenced by robust Dylan-esque singer-songwriters and classic rock as by Ray Charles. Their exuberance mitigates the melancholic tone of the “Love and Hate” album, and the collective mood is a celebratory one, as exemplified by the jubilant response to “Black Man In A White World” from the overwhelmingly Caucasian capacity crowd.

There were relatively few songs from his brilliant first album, “Home Again”, but “Tell Me A Tale” received the psychedelic wig-out treatment (although the absence of jazz flute was a shame). The encore comprised a deeply moving version of Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows In April”, and a rousing, sing-along rendition of the new album’s title track.

Vintage stuff.

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