BST Summerfest, Hyde Park, London
3rd July 2016
Instrumental (Cold Little Heart)
One More Night
Tell Me A Tale
May This Be Love
I’m Getting Ready
Black Man In A White Man’s World
Love & Hate
If you know the names of the band, please comment and I’ll add them.
We knew only a little about Michael Kiwanuka though being on the main stage should be credentials enough. I knew Home Again was a successful album. I had heard Black Men in A White Man’s World and knew he was spoken of in a Britsoul context. He says his influences include Bill Withers, Al Green, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix … and Randy Newman, Van Morrison and … (your writer sits up and takes notice) The Band.
We hadn’t even decided whether to stay for his set or wander round the gourmet burger and po’ boy stalls. The set started with a long droning Hammond sound, and gradually guitar slipped in and played alongside and my mind was thinking, Wish You Were Here? There was no mention of Pink Floyd among the influences. Then the chunky bass guitar came in and I sat up. This bass player was outstanding … dare I say the most impressive bass guitarist of the entire day. Chunky, rhythmic, innovative. Louise Goffin’s bass player in the previous set had been playing a “Paul McCartney” Hofner violin bass. Yes, we all think Sir Paul the world’s best melodic bass player, but I’ll bet Paul’s violin bass only appears on stage and is heavily modified. It always has a dull tone. This bass player really shone afterwards. So what’s this guy Kiwanuka doing sounding like Pink Floyd? And playing sinuous intoxicating lead guitar too.
Home Again is one of his best known songs, surprisingly low key for an expected soul singer. I’m still thinking late 60s / 70s rock, not soul at all.
One More Night was especially good. It’s a powerful bass line, leading the song. He has listed some impressive influences, but frankly, I heard few soul ones, and he is British born of Ugandan parents. He does know his 70s music, and those were the styles that came across to me.
In Tell Me a Tale I was hearing a mix of Rodriguez (Sugarman) with a strong strain of early 70s Dave Mason, yes, Dave Mason rather than Traffic. I’ve been listening to the complicated strings backed arrangement of the album track on YouTube today and it sounds very different … the simpler live arrangement was what conjured up Traffic … and like early 70s Traffic, he had both a drummer and a percussionist.
I’m Getting Ready is also laid back, with a niggling little guitar riff imprinting itself on your mind.
He then did Jimi Hendrix’s May This Be Love, the one that I always think of as “Waterfall”. I reckon he nailed the soaring guitar but there’s something about Jimi’s vocal quality and phrasing that I missed. You don’t really expect Hendrix channelled by a musician his age, but there are few “black” influences in spite of Black Man In A White Man’s World lyrics. It was a long hypnotic version, and the start (with just handclaps) sounds more gospel than soul.
Love and Hate is the latest single … check it out on YouTube. Great wordless chorus, and somehow Marvin Gaye’s name came up first, and the single sounds like the same bass player. They’re a superb compilation.
The Love &Hate album’s out in two weeks and I’ll be getting it.
FOOTNOTE: I bought it. The first number is Cold Little Heart. I said Pink Floyd above, the Guardian said Dave Gilmour in reviewing the album.