Review: Michael Kiwanuka

An intensely packed out Leadmill sees two-time Mercury prize nominated Michael Kiwanuka take to the stage with a serenading set that truly captures an artist at the peak of his craft.

With a career firmly built upon the support from institutions like the BBC, who recognised his talents back in 2012 with their ‘Sound of’ poll, and have provided relentless radio play on 6 Music, his work has been effectively dispersed to the masses, which is no more evident than tonight as the at-capacity venue heaves with eager onlookers.

Easing us in with slow-burner ‘Cold Little Heart’, it’s Kiwanuka’s highly skilled band that impress to begin with, as the first five minutes are entirely instrumental, before the song builds to showcase those ever-affecting Marvin Gaye-esque vocals. It’s a brave move opening with a ten minute-long track, yet rather than coming off as an unengaging, or even self-indulgent opener, it builds the sound steadfastly, layer upon layer, and is much more effective because of this; the audience’s applause speaks for itself.


The set flows seamlessly, and there’s no doubt as to why his recent album has been so lauded – the lyrics are soul-searching, melancholy and authentic, while the music is powerful and uplifting. Besides the pop-tinged ‘Black Man In A White World’, which brings the audience out of an almost trance-like state following the softness of ‘Rule The World’, one of the unexpected highlights is ‘Father’s Child’, a track that when performed live offers a subtle energy that isn’t quite captured on the album.

The encore, comprising of a beautiful cover of Prince’s ‘Sometimes It Snows In April’ and the finale of goose bump-inducing ‘Love and Hate’ did more than enough to prove Michael Kiwanuka’s credentials as one of the great soul singers of our generation.

Photos: Kevin Wells

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