Review: Michael Kiwanuka

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The Leadmill, Sheffield

You’d be forgiven for thinking 24-year-old Michael Kiwanuka’s album, Home Again, was an echo of Otis Redding or Bill Withers.

The north London newcomer’s classic soul/folk sound gained him the BBC’s Sound of 2012 award, though it left many wondering why this somewhat derivative style made such an impression on the industry. All became clear when he walked on stage introducing new single I’ll Get Along. He eased the crowd in with its feelgood pop vibes, reminiscent of early noughties acts like Jack Johnson. After a couple of safe pop songs, the iconic sounding Tell Me A Tale arrived. His first release, it could be straight out of Woodstock, fusing acid jazz, memorable vocal hooks, and intense guitar effects.

This up-tempo musicality is where Kiwanuka thrives, and thankfully where the tempo stayed. His acoustic set included Rest and I Won’t Lie and that was when that tremendous, soulful voice flourishes. Kiwanuka’s radio-friendly songs lack punch and his style is nothing new, but in the main he executes it perfectly. Lack of time in the limelight has preserved his wholly loveable nature on stage, freely engaging in banter with the audience.

On this occasion he proved that no matter what the genre, great songwriting will always stand the test of time.