Michael Kiwanuka, 02 Ritz Manchester, 22.10.2016

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Reviewed by James Lavender

2016 seems to have been good to Michael Kiwanuka. A No.1 scoring second album, a Mercury Music Prize nomination and now a UK tour, he is growing in confidence and in profile, all of which is visible in a recent performance at the Manchester 02 Ritz.

When he comes on stage, he starts with ‘Cold Little Heart’, which is a slow, yet epic starter, like in the vain of Pink Floyd or Maggot Brain by Funkadelic, with Kiwanuka ending with a well-crafted guitar solo which could have easily have been written by David Gilmour.

After this, we get into the swing of it with ‘One More Night’, which captures the soulfulness of Kiwanuka’s sound. ‘Black Man In A White World’ is a strong statement about modern black identity which has echoes of Curtis Mayfield. Both these tracks have a hint of funk about them, which the audience responds well to.

Many of the tracks on his recent album have intricate orchestral arrangements, but with the backing band he doesn’t quite capture the depth of the sound which he achieved on the album. However, he still manages to keep the audience on side, particularly with the simpler arranged tracks from his first album, such as the Bill Withers-influenced ‘I’m Getting Ready’.

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Before the end of the main set, Kiwanuka showcases more of his guitar skills on ‘Place I Belong’ and brings it all in for ‘I’ll Never Love’.

He comes on-stage for an encore featuring a tribute cover of Prince’s ‘Sometimes It Snows In April’. However, he did end on a fantastic version of ‘Love and Hate’ which the audience could get into.

Kiwanuka’s sound has the warmth of nostalgia for soul and funk music of 1970s, which plays well to the BBC Radio 2 and 6Music crowds, and it played well for this one.

3 out of 5

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