Daniel Merriweather, Estelle & Tawiah

at the iTunes Live London Sessions

Monday night of the iTunes sessions promised to be an occasion that carried more soul than any of the other surrounding events.

Two of Mark Ronson’s favourites, Tawiah and Daniel Merriweather, would start the action before the party really started with the UK’s number one R’n’B sensation Estelle treated us to a taster of what she has planned for 2008.

I must admit that going as she took the stage with her full live band I didn’t have the greatest of background knowledge about Tawiah, but I also have to admit I was more than pleasantly surprised, you might even say blown away by the all too short set she performed. From the first few bars of opener ‘Watch out’ Tawiah showed the signs of a great singer by appearing not too try as she introduced the crowd to her delectable tones.
Delighting the crowd with songs of her forthcoming EP including ‘Hold On’ and ‘Everystep’ every song carried a different weapon and the live band and tantalising backing vocals made the sound a whole lot more appealing than just another girl with a great voice, and allowed the stage personality of this South London youngster to shine through. The highlight of her short set was new track ‘Number One’ which after being introduced as a song ‘written like all those songs people used to listen to back in the eighties’ could have ended up pretty much anywhere. Luckily for the audience it was ‘PYT’ slower soul sister and pretty much ticked every box. Anyone with songs that good coupled with that much talent enthusiasm deserves to go a long way.

Daniel Merriweather has so far found a great deal more fame in the UK from his appearances on both of producer-extraordinaire Mark Ronson’s albums than from his solo efforts. Now off the back of some decent exposure there is some potential that needs to be fulfilled and the recent publicity, including an appearance at the Brits, should be the enough to kick this Australian New Yorker into gear.

Joined onstage by just a guy picking at his acoustic this was as stripped down as it comes, but throughout most of the set Merriweather managed to pull it off. His new album ‘Love and War’ should contain songs like opener ‘Chainsaw’ and ‘I kill myself’ and ‘Red’ which coupled with his Motown take on the Smiths’ ‘Stop Me’ are more than enough to carry any audience through a very strong set. It is when Merriweather slowed things down the crowd seemed to be losing interest as if they were at a Jack Johnson show. The only difference being that the voice on display tonight has so many variables it doesn’t get boring; His voice seems unsure whether to be smooth or sandpapered, soft or sharp, it sounds so easy yet delightfully near to breaking. To finish the set Tawiah returned so the pair could attack The White Stripes’ ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ with brilliant results. I never realised what room Jack White’s songs have for vocal expression.

Then the niceties were over and it was party time. Britain’s R’n’B queen Estelle, who counts Kanye West and John Legend amongst her collaborators and producers, was here to show off some new material. And it was new material that desperately needed showing off.
The set was a million miles away from the two that had preceded it and initially through a matter of taste I thought this to be a bad thing. Estelle wished the crowd to “dance rather than stare at me” as her dancers/backing vocals and keyboard/laptop kicked in.

Unfortunately until she treated them to a rendition of ‘1980’ they were far too statuesque for her liking. She got her wish, the audience lapped it up and it dawned on me why Estelle was so different to the previous acts. She has already made it big on both sides of the Atlantic and is going through that tricky stage for any established artist where the crowd want to hear all their favourite oldies and you need to try out you newbies. Luckily enough for Estelle, being the polished artist she has become, apparently means you have with you a backup of brilliant songs. Once the crowd had been nudged into life she fed off their energy and every song from her forthcoming long player ‘Shine’ sounded like a hit.

New track ‘American Boy’, with a guest appearance from none other than Kanye West is superior to anything Estelle has already released and having been noticed by the big boys of R’n’B and Hip Hop on the back of her first record four years ago she has made the most of new contacts book and sounds like she is going to have a very, very good 2008.

Daniel Merriweather returned to the stage to join Estelle on a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Blame it on the Sun’, fitting to end a night of so much soul with a song by the man who pretty much gave us the meaning of the word as we know it.

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