Published Jun 20, 2012Michael Kiwanuka brings such a quiet confidence and gentle assuredness to the stage that the hype the British/Ugandan soul artist has garnered this side of the Atlantic Ocean is duly warranted. Dressed casually in jeans and a black Jake Bugg tee, Kiwanuka's charisma drives a soulful vocal delivery (think: Bill Withers) and a poised mastery of the several guitars used throughout his workmanlike set.
"This is my second time in Toronto. But definitely the best," he admitted to the appreciative gathering at the Phoenix Concert Theatre.
Opening act Bahamas, also known as Toronto-based songwriter Afie Jurvanen, demonstrated why he was recently selected to the Polaris Music Prize long list, with a stripped-down set (two backup singers and a drummer), expert guitar work and faithful performances of songs mainly drawn from his Barchords album.
Playing to a mostly full house, singer-songwriter Kiwanuka and his six-piece band travelled through a setlist composed of cuts from his EP material and his debut full-length album, Home Again (including the Afrobeat-inspired "Tell Me a Tale" and lean version of "I'm Getting Ready"), save for a sweet extended cover of the Jimi Hendrix jam "May This Be Love (Waterfall)."
Kiwanuka delivers a simple, folksy brand of soul that is as effortless as it is earnest. By the time he rolled out Home Again's title track, the sweat-soaked Kiwanuka had built up a relaxed intensity that merited the inevitable encore to close things out. "Going to play a few tunes for you. I hope it's all right," said Kiwanuka at the opening of his set.