Klare Stephens – High Fives 2013

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It’s been an exciting year, particularly for live music, so my high 5 features 4 live acts, 2 of which I’ve previously reviewed for Music Riot, apologies for any repetition.  Here goes (in no particular order):

Angélique Kidjo HFAngelique Kidjo Live at the Brighton Festival

 Angelique Kidjo has taken over the mantle of Queen of African music, from the late, great Miriam Makeba and with today’s media has probably spread her reach further, having collaborated with dozens of Western bands and musicians.  The festival concert at The Dome was the first time I have seen her in an indoor venue and the containment worked very well for the atmosphere.  Kidjo criss-crossed between traditional forms and pop styles to great effect singing in four of her fluent languages, with an easy wit and story-telling in English.  As well as her extensive back-catalogue, she covered Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” and Santana among others, but it was Makeba’s “Pata Pata” that got the crowd to their feet and she had them dancing for the rest of the show; everyone left with a smile on their face.

Lucinda Williams HFLucinda Williams Live at the Brighton Festival

 Lucinda Williams at the Brighton Dome was a very different proposition, intimate and largely downbeat.  She took to the stage with her ballad book from over the years and largely stuck to it.  With a backing band of just two, her guitar playing was a feature as well as her husky voice.  Although, she somehow managed to avoid playing my favourite tracks I was introduced to others from her catalogue and it was a great show for the festival goers, many of whom were not long-term fans.  Those expecting the most recent album ‘Blessed’ were disappointed however as she skipped it completely, this was a festival set, but one that left you with the sense of what a fantastic veteran singer-song writer Lucinda is.

CATBCoco & The Butterfields Live at The Blind Tiger Club

 Coco & The Butterfields are a newish delightfully up-beat, festival-ready band of real musicians from Canterbury.  They feature a unique blend of instruments including banjo and violin; percussion and drums are played entirely by vocal beat-box.  They played a lively and eclectic set, featuring tweaked covers from Dolly Parton and Supertramp to Flo Rida & T-Pain.  But it was their set of original material, such as ‘Astronaut’ and ‘Warriors’ that got the locals dancing.  The energy was huge for a small band in a small venue with, sadly, a small audience.  Let’s hope C&TB reach further in 2014…

The LilyLayla Zoe – The Lily

 The Lily was the first material I had heard from Canadian Blues trooper Layla Zoe and what an introduction to her 7-album catalogue.  This album is a collaboration with Henrik Freischlader, a German multi-instrumentalist and guitar trail-blazer, whose searing blues is the perfect accompaniment to Layla’s original voice.  Although it is very positive and reflective blues, an interesting development for the genre, this album is very deeply felt.  Tracks include those about ex-lovers and her Father as well as a couple of cover versions.  Layla is planning to gig here in the UK in 2014 and I’m planning to see her beautiful blues live then.

Boy George HFBoy George Live at the Concorde 2

 Boy George has certainly lived the life, from drug-use to DJ to internment and it shows in his husky voice, which surprised me by sounding stronger live than it sounds on “This Is What I Do”, the new album he was promoting in this compact but versatile venue.  He and his band, including brass, played the entirety of that album of country-tinged, low-slung reggae as well as most of the Culture Club hits that made him famous in the 80’s.  A very tender version of ‘Victims’ was almost sabotaged by the noisy crowd and I’ve seen George in a better mood, but overall this was a concert offering variety and depth.  It was great to see George out from behind the decks and back in the limelight.