Live Review: Michael Kiwanuka – The Piece Hall, Halifax, 27.06.24

The early summer had been hot through June, but it wasn’t just the rain that brought the cool to Halifax’s Piece Hall last week. 

Michael Kiwanuka has been working his way through European festivals, on his way to the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. His final stop before the legendary festival was the no less iconic West Yorkshire venue, and the crowd were not deterred by the inclement forecast.

Excellent support act Joel Culpepper had already begun to lower the temperature, as he opened up with an irresistible performance. Dynamic and with flawless vocals, he was the perfect first course to the night of soulful tunes that was to follow.

London-born Kiwanuka emerged just as the rain began to fall again. That meant though, that he walked on with a rainbow painting the hillside behind the stage, and it was in keeping with the way this artist captivated his audience through the full spectrum of emotion, carried on the wave of exceptional lyricism and musicality.

Early in the set, the brilliant You Ain’t The Problem, from 2020’s Mercury Prize winning self-titled album set an irrepressibly funky tone, backed by 5 outstanding musicians and a trio of backing vocalists.There’s a depth and seriousness to Kiwanuka’s lyrics, such that you worry that it might overshadow the feeling of the evening. However, the beat of songs like Rolling keep the mood up, and when the star invites the wonderful Lianne La Havas to join him on stage for Rule The World, it takes the whole show up another level. 

Midway, another change of pace, as the band leave the stage, leaving Kiwanuka alone, backed just by his acoustic guitar. His rich vocals reverberate around the Italianate architecture and a reverent hush falls across the piazza, with barely a single mobile phone aloft capturing the moment. Instead, there’s an audience in thrall, enveloped in the warmth of the mellifluous voice.

The experience is lifted further by the cinematic images accompanying each song on the screen. Visually, the show is beautiful, from the big screen at the back to the single shaft of white light, illuminating Kiwanuka as he sits at the piano during Solid Ground. Both create atmosphere, in one moment epic, the next, heartbreakingly intimate.

The result is a night of immaculately written songs, and a beautifully produced show, all exquisitely delivered by an artist at the top of his game. As the night drew to a close, to the resounding refrain of Love & Hate,  I think we all left feeling a little cooler than when we went in – and that wasn’t down to the West Yorkshire weather.

Previous Premiere: 'Wake Up' - Sage Roadknight sends out an effervescent blast of pure pop joy.
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