Tonight made me realise by example what I want in a gig - musical excellence, heartfelt songwriting, vibe in the crowd and bass that makes matter vibrate. A burgeoning star in the ascendant, Kwabs demonstrated why his album Love + War has been so eagerly awaited.
Both support acts impressed - first was Mahalia, whom you might know from the ska-inflected title track of Rudimental's second album. The strength and gentleness she showed on that was in evidence tonight, and her radiant songs and acoustic picking command attention. This capable teenage artist is one to watch. Next, Zak Abel exceeded my expectation for a support act. An approach he has in common to the main event is that of convincingly updating retro sounds. To casually segue into Pharrell's 'Frontin'', then to switch to an original and blow the cover out of the water – that requires copious groove, and the ability to connect with a crowd. I'll definitely be checking him out further.
Kwabena Adjepong can sound very much of the moment, his warm timbre and honest lyrics lighting a path through a chilly post-dubstep landscape. He can also sound like lots of points from the 80s to 90s, from gospel-influenced voicings and turn-of-the-millennium R&B to straight-up classic soul. My favourite track made me think 'James Blake – as sung by the Ghanaian Luther Vandross!' and a Blake cover, a nod to his YouTube origins, received much appreciation. Overall it sounds like he has longevity.
But the guy himself seems aware that his time is coming. And seems ready. I can't detect any cynicism in his music, but I can see that he's determined to make it big. A mature, polished set, and consistently gripping.