With support from Michael Kiwanuka
Emeli Sande - Live At XOYO, London

There’s always something rather special about witnessing an up and coming musician play live - right before they hit the big time. And watching Michael Kiwanuka and Emeli Sandé play an intimate gig in Shoreditch is a true testament to that.

Both Brit musicians are tipped to be huge stars, with Kiwanuka crowned BBC’s Sound of 2012 and Scottish singer Sandé winner of this year’s prestigious Brits Critics’ Choice award (a gong that’s previously been won by the likes of Adele, Jessie J and Florence and the Machine), it’s fair to say this is an eagerly anticipated show.

First to hit the stage is Kiwanuka, casually dressed in a check plaid shirt and blue denim jeans; the 24-year-old is greeted with joyous applause by a packed crowd at London’s XOYO. With his guitar firmly draped around his neck, the north Londoner addresses audiences in a reserved and almost timid manner. But as soon as he plays the first note, opening with the soothing ‘I’ll Get Along’, it’s evident to see just why the former session player is being hailed as the next big thing.

Projecting a mellow sound that’s well beyond his years, Kiwanuka fuses traditional soul with folk music, exuding a level of emotion which is intriguingly captivating and demands the full attention of concert goers at the East End venue. Michael’s idols Bill Withers and Otis Redding are clearly influential in his style of sound, Kiwanuka effortlessly breezes though songs, with current single ‘Home Again’ garnering the loudest applause. Ending his thirty minute set with a demure rendition of Withers’ ‘I Don’t Know’, Kiwanuka exits on a high, leaving fans wanting more.

Sandé’s performance is a stark contrast to her “opening act”. While Kiwanuka appeared rather shy, the blonde shaven haired songstress is full of confidence as she struts on stage, dressed in all black, donning a trendy leather jacket, accompanied on stage by an energetic full live band.

After providing melodic vocals for various rappers, such as Wiley, Tinie Tempah and Professor Green, the Aberdeenshire native is visibly ready to take centre stage and finally become the main act – and rightly so. Her vocal range is highly impressive, with precise delivery the crowd is clearly in tune with the talented singer-songwriter.

With her debut LP ‘Our Version Of Events’ out later this year, there’s no doubt that 2012 will be a huge year for the former medical student. And it’s highly unlikely fans will get the chance to see the rising star perform at such a small venue any time soon, giving the show that extra special feeling.

While Sandé’s voice is encore worthy and justifies all the buzz currently surrounding her, the twenty-four-year-old ‘Heaven’ singer’s songs are not as strong as her predecessor’s. But her solid vocals and stage presence – as well as a personal highlight performance of the Alicia Keys co-written ballad ‘Hope’ - assures that overall the feisty singer is not upstaged.

Words by Vanessa Laker
Photos by Gemma Greany

Click here for a photo gallery of the performances.

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