Updated: Monday, 13th July 2020 @ 9:36pm

Gig review: Michael Kiwanuka @ The HMZ Ritz, Manchester

Gig review: Michael Kiwanuka @ The HMZ Ritz, Manchester

By Gareth Westmorland & Sean-Paul Doran

When soulful singer Michael Kiwanuka took to the stage of the HMV Ritz few were prepared for the spellbinding performance to come.

The winner of the prestigious BBC Sound of Music 2012 was always going to have a lot to live up to, but the effortless class and abundance of soul on display would satisfy even the most critical of music fans.

The 24-year-old Londoner has drawn comparisons to musical legends Bill Withers and Otis Redding, and although musical comparisons are notoriously misleading, this one is not at far-fetched as it may seem.

He supported Adele on her live tour last year and has certainly made an impression on the industry since with his distinctive style.

This set showcased the best of his back catalogue and also included a couple of covers, something he has proved to be adept at in the past following his captivating re-work of Radiohead’s iconic No Surprises for Dermot O’Leary’s Radio 2 show.

Opening with new single I’ll Get Along set the laidback tone and judging from the crowd reaction to this one, it’s going to be a hit.

Taken from new album Home Again, which peaked at number four in the UK album charts, its stripped-back melody and dulcet tones make this a contender to be a summer anthem.

The transition to next track Bones was sublime and almost made a mockery of the irresistible complexity of either piece.

An epic eight minute performance of Tell Me a Tale allowed Kiwanuka and his four-piece band the chance to show off their talents with an impressive fusion of instrument and voice.

In a nod to his musical roots, his cover of Jimi Hendrix track MayThis Be Love showcased the infectious enthusiasm and passion that have become synonymous with his work.

His rendition of breakthrough hit Home Again is what many in the crowd were waiting for and when it came it didn’t disappoint the sizeable Ritz crowd who echoed it back word-for-word.

A unique re-interpretation of Bill Withers’ classic I Just Don’t Know completed the hour-long set and undeniably signed off in style.

The stripped-back encore performance of Lasan allowed Kiwanuka to display the results of his work with The Black Keys guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerbach and left the crowd in awe of the raw talent on display.

Describing a voice as unique and distinctive as Kiwanuka’s is littered with problems.

It’s fair to say that he wouldn’t be out of place in the golden age of Jazz in the 1930s/40s, or on stage with soul icons Withers or Redding.

In truth, however, Michael Kiwanuka is essentially timeless and is just as current now as he would be in any other time or place.  

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