REVIEW: Michael Kiwanuka, O2 Academy Bournemouth

IF the tools of a man’s trade let him down, there’s not a lot a soul can do. Best to climb down, take stock and refocus before taking off again, wiser and stronger.

It’s to be hoped that is exactly what Michael Kiwanuka will do when he resumes his UK tour in Brixton on Thursday because his voice only lasted 45 minutes in Bournemouth last night – and that was just the third of ten sold out dates.

It all started so promisingly with a soaring set of soulful RnB from emerging Brit-soul sovereign Tawiah, heightening the mood of expectation that found blessed release with the opening chords of Kiwanuka’s beautifully realised Piano Joint, a celebration of pure love to stand comparison with Stevie Wonder in his early 70s pomp and one of many stand outs on Kiwanuka’s divine self titled third long player.

As the psychedelic soul shuffle of Rolling gave way to the glorious four-on-the-floor rush of You Ain’t the Problem, audience and band were connecting well enough that few would have questioned the vocal performance. In any case, a man so exposed in song is surely bound to show the cracks on stage – like Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Terry Callier, heartbreakers all, just the sound of that voice is enough to articulate the pain of life and love before it even forms a word.

Hints of Afrobeat and cosmic funk add depth and colour to the sonic kaleidoscope in Hero and Rule the World, while I’m a Black Man in a White World generously affords space for his backing singers to shine in euphoric polyphony.

But then, just as we steel ourselves for the victory lap, Kiwanuka stumbles over an intro, leaves the stage and takes the band with him. Minutes later an apology is made and it’s announced he will not return – desperate as he was to play the Bournemouth show his voice just wasn’t up to it.

Maybe next time…

Bournemouth Echo | What’s On