Having topped BBC’s sound of 2012 poll, released the EP Home Again and finished recording his eponymous debut album, the last few months have been huge for Michael Kiwanuka as the singer-songwriter has been building up a solid fan base. This was made clear by the expectant atmosphere in a packed-out Electric Circus. Sure enough, the eager crowd were treated to a polished and varied performance, seamlessly swelling from intimate folk to funk and soul.
After being sufficiently livened up by the supporting folk trio The Staves, the crowd is buzzing. Coming on to a raucous audience Michael Kiwanuka is clearly a little shy on stage, but as this is the last stop on his tour it’s great to see him enjoying himself as he dives into his first song. Many people have been drawn to him by his acoustic folk songs, but there’s a much bigger sound tonight with funk rhythm, a vintage organ and bongo percussion. Everyone was so loud in cheering Kiwanuka on stage that it’s a shame to see them static throughout most of his songs, and for what is predominantly a funk and soul night there is a disappointing dance floor.
A highlight of the night comes in the form of solo acoustic versions of a handful of songs by Kiwanuka, which according to him was how they were first conceived. It is now that his acclaimed voice really shines through and the overused and exaggerated comparisons between him and Bill Withers start to make sense (later cemented by a cover of Bill Withers’ 'I Just Don’t Know' performed before the encore). Despite hints at a second encore, cries for one more song and even a few declarations of love the gig comes to an abrupt end, but with so much hype surrounding this new musician, it was great to see him living up to it.