The Underbelly in Hoxton Square is a venue renowned for being a great place to enjoy live music. With its edgy and intimate setting, it provides a real sociable and interactive atmosphere to bask in excellent live performances, and the reputation of the venue was well lived up to on Tuesday, June 3, 2014, with three outstanding sets, including a stand-out performance from headliner Midé, whose set demonstrated vocals of a true star, and lyrics that accentuated this musicians utter talent and passion for music.
First on stage to support Midé was young North London R&B/Soul singer-songwriter Juliyaa, who came on with such confidence and charisma which immediately drew the audience in and captured everyone’s attention. Juliyaa has such an amazing set of vocals that introduces and showcases her diverse musical influences, and consists of a real array of pitches and tones – this was so beautifully demonstrated when she sung “Good For Nothing”. The song started upbeat in which she got to let loose and show us some real energy and powerful tones with a more urban music vibe, but then there was a section in the song where the tempo changed and she slowed it down and we got to see a more acoustic and soulful side to her sound with a real haunting harmony, and this song really accentuated her technical ability as a singer/songwriter.
What was so great about Juliyaa’s set was the way in which she interacted with her band and the audience, because with the venue’s really chilled and intimate vibe, you need the performer on stage to own the room and to show you a good time, which Juliyaa so naturally proved. The stunning Soul singer performed songs from her eagerly anticipated EP Somerset Close, including a track entitled “Mamma Said” which ended her set. This song has real potential and sounded like that of a true professional, and a chart topping songstress, which she so naturally seems to inhibit. Throughout Juliyaa’s set, I noticed just how fresh and unique her style of music is and how she touches upon such a variety of genres including African tribal sounds, UK Urban/Dubstep, elements of Electronic Music, R&B and soul, all that combined with her stunning array of vocals mix up to create her own individual brand that she has entitled ‘Rhythmic Soul’ which is a true testament to the performance I witnessed.
Next to grace the stage were recently created Welsh band Nights, consisting of four young guys who have the complete package of what I like to see in a band. They all had an air of confidence about their persona, and lead singer Anthony Smith who introduced them looked nothing short of a true star on that stage, and as a group they just seemed to piece together as a band that you would have guessed have been touring and playing together for years and years. The first line to come out of Anthony Smith’s mouth immediately sold their set for me and I knew I was in for an absolute star quality performance.
Nights have an extremely fresh sound that touches upon a mixture of genres and qualities including Rock & Indie styles, experimenting with Electronic beats and real edges of Grunge, and all combined with 3 remarkable guitarists, a stand out drummer and vocals that utterly blew my mind, and not to mention attitude and charisma that exploded their performance to another level. What truly made these lads stand out though was the uniqueness of tones and rasps in the vocals, for me there is nothing better when watching live music, than when you get a vocalist who has your complete attention, and provides you with a sound that you have never heard before, and that is exactly how I felt when watching Nights.
These guys performed a variety of songs, even a track that contained no lyrics just an instrumental, and yet I was still as transfixed, which truly demonstrates the quality of their musical abilities. Their final song was entitled “Know No Other”, for which they invited a friend Fernquest, who had co-written the song, onto the stage to perform with them. What ended the show was utter brilliance, the lyrics and vocals combined was genius and how they mixed in rap with their edgy and rocky sound was highly professional and created a track that has the potential for greatness.
Finally, headline act and the man of the moment, London singer/songwriter Midé came onto the stage and what happened next is extremely hard to accentuate via writing, however I am going to do my utmost to truly explain the passion, musicianship, talent and star quality that Midé so naturally and modestly explodes with. Midé kicked his set off with a track entitled “Unlikely” from his debut album E.G which was released at the end of March this year and gained him recognition from the likes of MTV, MOBO, SBTV and BBC 1Xtra.
Midé is one of those rare talents that are extremely hard to find anymore, as he resembles the essence of live music, and by this, I mean I have listened to his album and previous EPs, and was completely blown away by his vocal ability, the melodies and lyrics of every song, and yet I still prefer the unedited, raw and live performance that I saw. Midé live is something that is not seen every day and neither is his vocal excellence, he has a way of connecting with a listener, and fills the room with a sense of ease and comfort. The uniqueness in Midé’s sound comes from the subtle arrays of genres in which his music echoes, from the rawness of acoustic, the smoothness of Soul, the rhythm of Blues, edges of soft Rock and hitting on Reggae beats, that all combine to create this beautiful sound. The combination of his soulful voice with sensationally skillful guitar playing reflects artists such as Eric Clapton, Jason Mraz, Ed Sheeran and John Mayer who could be seen as influences (however I think its safe to say Midé sounds like Midé).
It’s not only Midé’s sound that is so impressive, but it is his whole attitude and every ounce of charisma that he inhibits, and this was demonstrated when he performed the song “Hilda”, and he explained he had never performed the song live before and was extremely excited to do so as he wanted to get the whole audience doing a dance routine. Every song has its own rhythm and uniqueness that creates variety and excitement, but yet he has this sound that follows through every song to maintain his own individuality. Midé shook things up a bit when he performed his cover of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love?”, and it was one of the best Bob Marley covers I have ever heard, he kept a Reggae musical backdrop flowing throughout, but then gave it his own spin which kept his uniqueness echoing through, and this is extremely admirable and rare to hear, when listening to such a famous cover. He then kept the Reggae beat lasting with his own song “Any Which Way” which is also off the E.G album, and really added to the good times we were all so clearly having.
Midé started finishing up his set with “Mainstream”, a song from both his 2013 EP of the same name and his recent debut album E.G. He explained how important this song was for him, as it has done a lot for his career and helped him to get to where he is right now. With Midé singing
“wake me, I’m asleep, I’m in a daydream, wake me“,
I was taken away on his journey and it made me realise that music is not what Midé does, it is who he is. This song was finished up with Midé jamming with the band, which accentuated their musical capabilities and passion for the art.
When finished with this song, I was in no way surprised when he was requested/screamed at for an encore by the audience (me being one of them). He asked the audience who among them had followed his career right from the start, and it appeared that the majority of the venue had. He then went on to test them by singing “Travellin’ Light” from his debut EP from back in 2011, and it was such an amazing moment to see his true fans sing along to every word with him. It just ended the show with such good feelings and clarity, and it was so clear that Midé was right where he belonged, singing and playing to real fans, and gaining new ones every step of the way.