Live Review: ROX at Dingwalls, London

Thursday night at Dingwall’s in Camden saw soulstress Rox Tataei play the London date of her first headlining UK tour.  It was a sold out show as hundreds of punters squeezed into the relatively cosy venue to watch one of 2010’s brightest rising stars, Rox having been tipped for greatness by everyone from the BBC to the Broadsheets.

The supporting acts, Ghost Poet and Liam Bailey, were more than up to the task of opening such a prestigious show.  Both these artists are personal friends of Rox and come highly recommended for big things by the lady herself.  First up was the ever-so slightly eccentric Ghost Poet with his quirky musings over rock/Hip Hop rhythms.  He was swiftly followed by Liam and his acoustic trio.  Bailey is a revelation; an adroit songwriter with an appealing, scratchy Marley-esque vocal mixed in with phraseology and chord progressions reminiscent of Sam Cooke.  Something of an old soul, Bailey’s voice alone could tell a thousand stories without articulating a lyric. By the end of his blinding set he had the audience eating out of his hand and rightly so; he very nearly stole the limelight.

However once Rox was on stage – all smoky almond eyes, scandalously red pout and looking like a petite 21st century Nefertiti – there was no question why so many have faith in this young lady’s abilities.  With the confidence and stage presence of someone who has been in the business twice as long (Rox has been singing for ten years since the tender age of 11) she is a consummate performer.  Despite being overwhelmed  with emotion at the thought of playing to a packed venue in her hometown, occasionally holding back the tears, she still managed to have so much fun on stage the crowd couldn’t help but rock along.  Miss Tataei has an impressive array of songs in her talent arsenal.  She clearly understands that the time-honoured tradition of a good melody and well-crafted lyrics can’t fail to capture the listener’s attention.

Then there’s the voice; strong, soulful, controlled yet flexible.  Rox apologised for her vocals not being in top form but we never would have guessed, especially when she hit those crystal-clear falsetto notes or unleashed her knee-weakening vibrato.  Opening the set with new single ‘My Baby Left Me’ Rox regaled the audience with many of her MySpace classics: the sagacious ‘Forever Always Wishing’, the equally captivating ‘Pages Unfold’ as well as newer material such as ‘Precious Moments’ and ‘Rock Steady’.  The latter, an irresistible lover’s rock number, had Rox showing off old-school dance moves the butterfly and the bogle whilst the crowd grooved along to the juicy bass line courtesy of the ubiquitous Jodi Milliner.

Rox smoothed things out with a few acoustic numbers including a very interesting take on Seal’s ‘Crazy’, to which the audience signalled their approval by heartily singing along.  Credit to her for avoiding the obvious – it’s not the most common cover version choice but it’s a risk that paid off.  For the encore Rox played keys on ‘Gallais’ – a ballad dedicated to the man in her life.  I hoped in vain she might squeeze in a more uptempo number before vacating the stage but time was not on our side.

It was great to experience Rox’ music in such an intimate setting-one that really lends to the enjoyment of her brand of pop-soul.  It remains to be seen if the grander venues she’s inevitably going to play will capture the atmosphere as well.  Then again, having to perform in larger surroundings is not a bad problem for an artist to have; least of all Rox who, right now, has the world at her feet.

–Tola Ositelu

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