Gig Review – Michael Kiwanuka/The Staves


Michael Kiwanuka/The Staves

Electric Circus, Edinburgh, February 25

‘Hello, we’re The Staves and we’re going to play some songs,’ says Emily Stave, almost apologetically.

She needn’t have worried. When the three-piece Emily (vocals), Jessica (vocals, guitar) and Camilla (vocals, ukulele) open with their three- part harmonies a capella you coulod almost hear a pin drop. Not bad for a support act anywhere. They’ve recently released their debut EP, Mexico, and whilst they still seem nervous between songs, once they’re playing their nerves seem to drop away.

My friend Jared, who’s accompanied me to the gig describes them as if the Bronte sisters formed a band. Over the course of songs like ‘Tongue Behind My Teeth’ ‘Pay Us No Mind’ and ‘Mexico’ win over a packed-out crowd who seem to warm to them instantly. Given that Edinburgh is frantically busy, a result of the sodding Rugby being on yet again, they’re greeted well, and I suspect their return headlining slot in Edinburgh at The Pleasance will be well attended.

Michael Kiwanuka recently won the BBC Sound of 2012 Poll. He opens with his single ‘I’m Getting Ready’ shortly to be re-released. Not only do the crowd adore him from the moment he walks on, but he seems to have a voice that channels the very best of seventies soul – Messrs. Wonder, Gaye, Mayfield, Hayes, and perhaps most of all, Bill Withers. The handful of songs I had heard before the gig had inclined me to think of him as being just another slightly folky singer-songwriter, but there’s alchemy at work here. ‘Always Waiting’ for example has a country feel to it, and over the course of the gig, he reveals himself to be foremost a soul man, but with folk, country, blues, funk and even a bit of rock thrown in too. Those who see himas being another person in the vein of Ed Sheeran are just so…wrong.

His band are shit-hot too; particularly percussionist Hammadi, who is apparently just filling in for a few gigs, but who joins the others in making this feel like the nearest I am ever going to get to being at one of those 60s or 70s soul revues. ‘Burnt’ has a touch of the Junior Walkers about it, while ‘Rest’ is so beautiful I feel nstress free for the first time in months.

Playing ‘Home Again’, his recent hit single, he acknowledges that there are gigs where people are shouting for this song right from the beginning. It’s not representtative of all he has to offer (much in the same way that Harvest is only a tiny picture of what Neil young has offered in over forty years of recording). He finishes with a cover of ‘Bill Withers’ I DOn’t Know’ before coming on for an ecnore with a cover of Hendrix’s ‘May This Be Love.’

I went to my first gig nearly a quarter of a century ago. At the end of the gig, I tell his guitarist that this is, without a doubt, one of the top five gigs I have ever been too – and I mean it. When I meet Michael himself, I think I just about manage not to gush too much at him. I’m hoping his forthcoming debut Home Again does the justice to what is a fantastic live show, that leaves the crowd not only begging for more, but clearly very moved indeed.

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