Michael Kiwanuka, Ruby Lounge, Manchester

Michael Kiwanuka, Ruby Lounge, Manchester

The finest moments come when it’s just Michael and his guitar.


How good was it when, after 2011’s sham of a winner, Michael Kiwanuka won the BBC’s Sound Of 2012 poll? Finally, an artist with actual soul and talent had been recognised and propelled from a largely unknown singer-songwriter to a critically acclaimed sensation within a year. Not too shabby eh? He’s a man who’s clearly out of his own time though. Originally he was a Radiohead and Nirvana fan playing in rock bands but now his tones match that of Otis Reading and Bill Withers (he covers ‘I Don’t Know’ tonight). Clearly that change in direction worked well as the crowd come out in full force to pack out the Ruby Lounge.

‘I’ll Get Along’ gets the night to a mellow start as the twang of Michael’s guitar sounds as antique as his warm, mature vocal chords. Whilst that opening track speaks of optimism (“Sometimes when I don’t call, I’ll still get along in a little while”), others like ‘Worry Walks Beside Me’ speak about the desire of loneliness (“I’ll be doing fine if you just leave me behind”). Michael’s a humble man who speaks with a reserved gentleness, yet those stories he tells are enough mesmerise the crowd who have been latching onto every word he sings. Further on, ‘Tell Me a Tale’ receives the best reception: people surge forward to shake their hips at the breezy Wurlitzer and blustering flutes.

Unsurprisingly, the finest moments come when it’s just Michael and his guitar and there’s a powerful sense of intimacy that comes out from this otherwise timid man. As each song ends, his sincere words of thanks are returned with energetic cheers each time. “This is my first time in playing in Manchester tonight and you’ve all been wonderful,” he says. It’s the first but it certainly won’t be the last.