Michael Kiwanuka: Live at The Sugar Club Review


Michael Kiwanuka deserves every good word said about him. His soulfulness oozes from him and puts many musicians who rely heavily on samples and triggers to shame. Michael performs backed with a five piece band and being totally honest I completely fell in love with the percussive sounds. Having a dedicated percussionist really adds so much to a live sound. Can’t wait for the album ‘Home Again’, which is out in March. Really good gig and a delightful opening act in The Staves. This review was first published on Goldenplec.

It’s Saturday night, the show is sold out. When the artists on the night are billed as ones to watch, it would be easy to get caught up in hype. Neither Michael Kiwanuka and his support act, The Staves say much on stage. They let their music do the talking.

The Staves are a trio of sisters, Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor hailing from Watford. They begin as the venue is filling up, with clusters of people taking notice. By the end of their set though, it was a slightly different matter. As you’d expect with sisters, their voice match up perfectly for three part harmonies and tonight they are joined by a drummer and bassist which add an extra depth to their sound.

They start their seven song set with ‘The Motherlode’ and immediately its easy to see why they are creating a buzz. Their harmonies showcase their voices but their melodies and instrumentation showcase the songwriting. Switching from acoustic guitar to electric and back and the addition of mandolin to some songs also shows off their songwriting and their musicianship.

The sisters have had two EP’s so far, and the title track from their last one ‘Mexico’ is well received. A new track they played though, ‘Tongue Behind My Teeth’ was more uptempo than its predecessors and added a lot of energy. The trio embark on an acapella song ‘Wisely and Slow’, which brings a complete hush to the audience. The brilliance of the harmonies without any musical backup gets the crowds roaring approval before they end their set with a fan favourite, ‘Winter Trees’. Great performance and not surprising to see these guys are on tour with the likes of Ben Howard and The Civil Wars.

Michael Kiwanuka isn’t a big guy but what he lacks in stature he more than makes up for in talents. He mentions this is the third time he’s been in Dublin and mumbles from the audience tell of where they have seen him previously. His reputation growing each time as he needs bigger venues.

He brings with him a five piece band, keys, guitar, bass, drums and a dedicated percussionist. As the set begins with ‘I’ll Get Along’, it’s hard not to fall in love with the extra oomph his brings. When you’re listening to Michael, you could be listening in any era, he has a timeless quality. His smooth vocals wash over you like welcome sunshine.

‘I Need You Company’ shows an old vibe that echoes the great soul sounds of yesteryear and here at the start of the song, the percussion section hints at a stripped down ‘Freedom 90? vibe that George Michael would have been proud of.

Michael’s new album is out in March so there are is still a still unfamiliarity with the audience with some of his material. Pockets of die hard fans, sing along though, knowing every word. While the perfection Michael has achieved so far, seems to have come overnight, being this good is hard work and this is evident as Michael towels the beads of sweat from his face. Not before getting the crowd involved and bopping along. ‘Tell Me a Tale’ is more uptempo than ‘I’m Getting Ready’, which started with Michael solo before the band join in for a jazzy soul feel. The audience is buzzing to ‘Tell Me a Tale’, heads in the auditorium swaying in unison.

Michael takes off his cardigan, thanks The Staves and introduces his band who have been playing an accompanying blues riff, a tender rendition of ‘Rest’ follows. According to Michael’s setlist the next uptempo track is called ‘Bones’, everyone is clapping along but it’s really ‘Home Again’ that a lot of people want to hear. The hit has even more impact live with the words being sung right around the auditorium. He finished his main set with ‘I Don’t Know’ featuring a nice break which allows the for some crowd interaction with clapping along and keeping the beat.

Michael seems to have quite a dedicated following as he is ushered from the stage by security, away from those already trying to get a piece of this amazing talent. He returns to the stage for a solo version of ‘Lasan’, leaving The Sugar Club audience with no doubt of his talent.

Amazing performance, vibe, and voice. During the gig I imagined myself listening to his album at home, without even thinking, my head was taking out vinyl and sitting, chilling. Timeless. A truly stunning talent.


The Staves