Lyrix Organix MSF fundraiser feat. Michael Kiwanuka, E.Amato, Vid Warren and the Leano- Review & photos

24 Nov

All photos:  Zofia Walczak

Oh my word.  I didn’t expect to be quite so blown away by the talent of the artists and the vibe of the night at the rootsy hiphop/soul/spoken word Lyrix Organix gig in the Old Queen’s Head in Islington last night.  One artist in particular stole my heart and warrants a review all to himself… but more about him later, it wouldn’t be right to use up all my gushing superlatives straight away.

The night was in aid of Medecins Sans Frontieres, a worthy cause, and one of those things that make you think that even if the gig is mediocre, you haven’t wasted your minimal entry fee.  How wrong of me to ever consider this.

The first act was excellent spoken word artist E.Amato.  She only performed four pieces, which was a shame as I’d have loved to hear more, but she was awesome, natural and incredibly creative.  Womanhood and celebrity, as well as fakeness, were themes in her work, a truly stand out piece being Looking for Vegas.  Her performance reminded me that speaking in an abstract, poetic way can often communicate much more directly than pretend rational prose.

Instrumental beat boxer Vid Warren was next on stage.  Dressed in a plain grey suit and white shirt, clean shaven, he certainly stood out.  Before he started, a drunk American dude next to me commented loudly that ‘the way this guy was dressed, you’d take one look at him and tell him to get the fuck out’.  OK, I wouldn’t have gone that far.  He started off with the well trodden genre of hip hop, and via some refreshingly convincing dub and drum and bass ended up with his own spin on jazz.  This was enough to make us realize he was a talented and highly entertaining yet humble dude, but let’s just say the addition of a harmonica, flute, and juggling balls took his performance to a whole other level.  A virtuoso harmonica/beat box mash up level to be precise, subsequently repeated with a flute, and finished off with a set of juggling perfectly harmonized with his beat boxing, or vice versa, it was hard to tell.  Woah.  That’s all.  Beat boxers are underrated in my opinion, but I rate this one even more for not being afraid to be so darn unique.

Now for the third artist, Michael Kiwanuka.  Drum roll please.  Excuse the gushing words, but normal language just doesn’t suffice when you’re trying to describe how goose bumps feel.  He’s been described as a mix of Otis Redding and Bill Withers, which is by no means an exaggeration, though I’d add that he is definitely in the here and now rather than trying to be something from the past.  He seamlessly blended blues, soul and folk with his effortless, elevating voice, guitar and a ridiculously likeable, endearing and at times laugh out loud self deprecating humour between songs.   You just wanted to hug him and thank him, and maybe even shed a tear of joy and appreciation with an insanely big smile on your face.

In the most cool, effortless and un-cheesy way, he stole the hearts of not only the women, but all the men in the audience too.  I wouldn’t hesitate to say we all felt enveloped in a blanket of….something indescribable during his set.  His is the kind of music you feel rather than listen to, and the kind that makes you see things more clearly, without ever really meaning to.  Everyone was having a ‘moment’, mesmerized, that’s all.

His solitary three songs on Myspace are most definitely worth a listen or fifty, but somehow the internet doesn’t do him justice.  He definitely needs to be seen and heard live.  As I talked to him after the show he told me he’s now signed and starting recording in December.  Having joked more than once that it takes him ages to get round to doing anything, let’s hope he manages to record soon enough so he can grace our headphones early rather than late next year.

Last on was self-described hip hop/folk artist ‘The Leano’.  Now, I had misgivings from the start about this one.  For a start, I take issues with his artist name.  Yes yes, we’ve all been there, but does being lean really have to be so central in how you represent yourself creatively?  Thankfully my cynical ears were won over by what seemed like his genuine love of language and talented use of words, an energetic backing band, and a certain unexpected edge to the proceedings.  With songs about smiling, self esteem, peace and ceasefire, as well as a strong tendency towards audience participation, the set could easily have strayed into happy-passive-stoner-wannabe-deep-spread-the-love territory, but didn’t, as it seemed more authentic and skillful than that.   A quality freestyle finished the set.  The Leano asked the audience to pick three random characters, which ended up being Little Red Riding Hood, Edgar Hoover and Marilyn Monroe.  He managed to craft some convincing verses  out of thin air about this mish mash of characters, via a host of abstract situations and coincidences and some token obscenities.  Overall, a funny, genuine and clearly very talented character with a ‘make the world better’ message, and some equally big personalities and talents as his backing band.

Lyrix Organix was a great night, superbly organized with an exceptionally good atmosphere.  This review wouldn’t be complete though without at least a sentence of appreciation to DJ Anon, who, between the live performances, seamlessly weaved his way in and out of tracks that reminded me how much I truly deeply love my old school hiphop.  He gauged the vibe of the audience and the night immaculately.   This was the last Lyrix Organix show for 2010, so a big thank you to them for introducing us to such uniqely great new music.  To be repeated in 2011 I hope.

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2 Responses to “Lyrix Organix MSF fundraiser feat. Michael Kiwanuka, E.Amato, Vid Warren and the Leano- Review & photos”

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