Sunday, 3 March 2013

#ESPspotlight Review: 'An Evening with Soneni And The Soul, with Special Guest KOF!'

There's a good reason why I allowed Soneni and The Soul to remain atop the Groups section of my UK Favourites list, where they firmly ensconced themselves a few years back now. 

I mean sure, they're ridiculously talented, nice people, really rather entertaining individually, but a smash hit wonder collectively, and all that good stuff, but none of that was it. If I'm honest, I can't actually remember what it was. I'm sure it wasn't (just) because their lead singer slightly reminds me of a little black fairy in 4D, that would fly into any open orifice and beat me from the inside out, with her actual backside, in syncopated rhythm, until I complied...Pretty sure. I mean I think it wasn't. More about Soneni's posterior later - it's officially a 5th member that earned it's own mention after it's buttline performance at Chalk Farm's The Monarch last Wednesday night.

'An Evening With Soneni And The Soul with Special Guest KOF (and Zimbabwe's Best Foreign Asset)' was the latest stop on the self-described 'Afrosoul' band's UK tour, where they're introducing the Country to Funk from The Soul, with acoustic aplomb.

Always one for a family outing, I brought the Jamerican One out to enjoy the night with me, showing Lekhem my appreciation for his attendance by sticking him on camera duty for the night. Hey, he likes it! Why withhold the joys in life that make him such a happy little bunny?!

As well as leaders of the beat, Soneni and Bass/Keys Player and Producer Elmo, also split hosting duties, successfully warming the crowd with quickfire quiz games at each interval; right before DJ Jekyl incited bestial behaviour with what I entitled 'Killer Fillers' early on. The man was responsible for many a female whining their waists; shapes were thrown, teeth were gritted and bared, DMX-style growls were repeatedly heard...Until Lekhem eventually took me aside and had a word. First Lady of Disney, yes. Maybe even a cheeky musical. But Eve I was not, and I was warned in no uncertain terms that if I couldn't control myself, the head rubbing and my Master P-style "Uhhhhh's", there would be NO MORE HIP HOP IN PUBLIC FOR ME. I had never been so insulted. Not since the last thing he said to me anyway...

Tamed and permitted to rejoin the crowd if I promised to behave; Hip Hop Poet Nego True was just getting comfy enough with us to strip. Clothing, nerves...the East London native broke the ice by removing the nerve barriers that stood between him and his audience. Very funny and down to earth; True brought a healthy mix of natural comedy to his set, which worked perfectly to break up the sombre severity of his topics.

Hip Hop Spoken Word Artist, Nego True
'Starts Early', was a powerful piece about London's 'postcode wars' and the far-reaching scope of it's fallout across family, friends and more. 'Dear Mr. Racist' was an eloquent open letter to the David Starkeys and (still breathing) Charlton Hestons of today's world. 'Sometimes' was a break up ode based in confusion that still seemed a little raw, judging by the stumbles off his game during his delivery. When he paused the piece with a reassuring "Don't worry, I still remember it!" You had to wonder if those were really 'stumbles' after all, or an intentional part of his relatable game plan.

A quick 'Getting To Know You' chat with Soneni and Elmo tied Nego True's performance up in a neat little bow. Another quickfire quiz round was followed by more DJ Jekyl fire; when the warning face Lekhem shot me from across the room quashed the mini shapes I wasn't so much trying to 'throw', as scatter gently and quietly, into empty air pockets in the near vicinity. He was really quelling the joy in my existence...

The night's special guest really needed little to no introduction. I just so happened to notice the females in the room gravitate to the front en masse, for unobscured views of the stage. Can't say I blamed them; I secured my spot way back in the first quiz round - because I wanted to see the show of course - no other reason...

Liverpool Singer-Songwriter KOF
KOF's cheeky charm has become way more pronounced since I last caught him live. His stage presence was commanding before but, clearly seasoned now, he's got the whole thing down to Scotch Bonnet hoT, with a capital T (Google it non-hued people). Proving it's all natural, no rehearsal time necessary, his rapport with The Monarch crowd was immediate; just as his ability to connect in jest as well as song, was effortless. His words echoed from a few weeks back, as I remembered him talking about coming out of his shell on stage, because he was among friends

I can't imagine that not one female, across any of his shows, has ventured an answer to the questions posed in opening track 'Lookin At Me' (I know I have a few suggestions)...Fully aware of the answers to his own questions; KOF still used the icebreaker to draw his audience into banter, mid-song. The Liverpool Lad's rendition of his 'Thugs Mansion / Smells Like Teen Spirit' mashup was my equivalent of watching lab rats during a clinical experiment - in the nicest way possible. Go with me on this one...You see, half the enjoyment of KOF's set, was watching what he does on wax, translate to what he gives in a live setting. A talent that far too few performers have the ability to master, in my humble opinion - it was interesting to watch a case study in action, as he maintained the swagger (for want of a more apt, less annoying description) at exactly the right level to keep the ladies entranced, but without offending the lads, instead keeping them onside with both relating to his every word. If that's not the makings of a future great, I don't know what is.

Giving us something we could feel...KOF put the work in

A nice little cliffhanger of a track about his being 'alright in his Soul' (which we were all very glad to hear), preceded a stellar performance of 'Fire On The Mountain'. But it was that cover of D'Angelo's 'Brown Sugar' that was the standout performance for Yours Truly. Purely because of the delivery and singalong interaction with Soneni and a few other ladies in attendance, you understand; and not at all because the Young Sir fulfilled that Valentine's surprise he promised me a few week's back. That had nowt to do with it - I swear on the horsemeat burgers I no longer eat. I mean really, do I look like the type to be swayed by mischievous eyes and sexy serenades (*ahem* video attempts are accepted via email, though. For professional purposes only, of course)...

The serious nature of 'Child of the Ghetto' grabbed everyone's  attention back to the music after the steam...I mean jokes of 'Brown Sugar'. Soneni and Elmo's mini interview with KOF post-performance proved the rapport between the artists was a brilliant starting point for the joint tour that the headliner's hinted at very 'subtly'. Done with almost equal diplomacy as my saying if that goes ahead, there's not a security guard in town big enough to keep me from the front row, never mind the building. Disney First Lady my sweet round...

Speaking of which, remember earlier when I said we would be discussing the band's 5th member? Well when Soneni and The Soul returned after the final intervaltheir First Lady having changed into a gown full of splendour, all in the building felt the change in electricity sure, but my, were they (me) in awe of what that little Madam did with her South End.

SATS Lead Singer Soneni Nkomo
Before we talk setlist, I need to talk franchise options. Because I'll tell you something for nothing right now - if by some freak force of nature this 'band thing' doesn't work out, that Diminuitive Diva has a career LOCK on a New Year DVD workout series and I want IN on it - you all see you're reading about it here first! Davina you better watch your spot, love; Soneni's backing up...literally.

Kicking off with 'Cloud 9', the track was the perfect opener since it was evident they were already floating from the first note. You didn't need to have caught them live before to know, that this was obviously not these guys' first time. They didn't need a second to get in sync; they came together and flowed effortlessly in every way that you want to see from a live band.

There are few better equipped to tribute 'Summer Days' than this lot. Even under bright stage lights on a ruddy freezing London winter night, I still see them in fields of sunshine in the summertime. That's pretty much their own fault though. Have you seen the video for 'We Can Go'? I own no blame. A cover of Sizzla's 'Thank You Mama' had us all emosh. I'm pretty sure I caught the biggest dude in the room swiping tears as he rang his Mum and blubber undying love and devotion at the sound of her voice. I was moved to gift mine with my Dairy Box quiz winnings. It's Real Love out here people. One's up to the Mamas.

SATS Guitarist Andrew 'A-Train' Pearse and Drummer Boukie
Now, if you caught my review of the 'Million Miles Away' EP, you'll remember what I told you about that drumbeat from Boukie on Spoken Word track 'A Place Called eKhaya'. What someone neglected to warn me, was that Camden traffic is far too heavy for actual spirit walks; The Highway Code does not account for those and a rewrite should be considered. The band also might want to think about including a PSA of some kind for any unsuspecting listeners prone to hypnosis. Law suits are only good to the tailors fitting you up, my friends - tink bout it...

The 'Ziyahamba' buzz word used throughout the quiz rounds finally made sense to those unfamiliar with the EP. Bringing the house down James Brown style, when that Soneni chick kneeled in those heels to let the track breathe, she made me want to throw my coat around, and aid her on her glitter-heeled journey to the Promised Land.

The Reggae twist on funk-enthused tune 'The Zone' took everyone  to a new destination, deep inside the title. As the band broke it down for the bridge, it proved to be the official spotlight moment on how tight Soneni, Elmo, Boukie and Andrew, aka A-Train really are. You experienced what the greats talk about in their VH1 Behind The Music specials. If you bodyswapped them with one another, once the initial shock of Soneni's rear end on one body, whilst it's personality took over one of the boy's wore off; I'm pretty sure you would find that rest would have perfect command of each other's talents. The (pun-intended) bottom line is, that the well-rehearsed fusion showed why when it comes to their compositions, the gents really are The Soul in their dynamic...

If the latter is the boy's moment to shine, then 'Million Miles Away' is Soneni's, to trample the message of core talent, home. Stripped of all other distractions, with only A-Train for backup, the singer let her vocals fly for a performance as sweet as she is. The cherubic innocence didn't last long though. Using DMX's infamous 'Ruff Ryders Anthem', mashed up with Nas and Lauryn Hill's 'If I Ruled The World' to introduce the band in a jam session so epic that Soneni failed to notice her bangle fly off in a fit of enthusiasm. I don't know if it landed with the same impact as an Arrow from Cupid, but it was replaced afterwards by a willing fan / courtier / prospective husband, judging by the delicate look on his face, as he gently adorned her wrist...

Soneni And The Soul need NO help getting the party started...
'We Can Go' aka 'My Azontoing In A Field a la Soneni, With Some Elmo Shades On' song, will never disappoint! A full on party in the place by this point; I had to self-impose some calm as I remembered that while Soneni had endless cause, excuse and justification to sweat out her last hair curl - I did not.

Where some may call 'Fly So High' Soneni And The Soul's encore, for me to describe it as anything less than their 'Proud Mary' equivalent would be an insult to music. All that was missing in that Acappella intro, was Soneni throwing in a little "Slow, and EEEAAAAASSSSYYY..." in a Tina voice, before Boukie started beating on those drums like his name was Ike, returning from beneath the ground to settle one last score with Anna Mae in the back of the limo, IMmortal Kombat style...

The Donae'o twist of 'I'm Fly' on the track's end was like a lit match on the paraffin-doused set. All that was missing was an impression of the North-West London Performer/Producer by Elmo to lace that final note: "And we done - FINISH".

If you want to see Soneni And The Soul Smash Down another venue, you can catch the next stop on their tour here.

Visit the EricaSharlette Promotions Ltd. Facebook Page for Lekhem's photos from the event.

As always, connect and engage with all of the artists on the line up via their Social Media Catalogues below:

Soneni And The Soul:


Nego True:

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#MarchMusic in the #ESPspotlight doesn't stop here, stay tuned to the blog for Music Specials and competitions everyday this month!

Until tomorrow...
ES ;)