Marsha Ambrosius embodies soul. Ever since “The Songstress” appeared as the scene as part of neo-soul UK duo Floetry her honest personality (which translates through her singing talent) has positioned her as one of the top talents in soul. At London’s Islington Assembly Hall on the 24th of February, the singer showed off just why we can’t get enough of her, as few others on the music scene match her exuberance and vulnerability.
As soon as Marsha walked on stage her personality shone, and she spoke to the audience like we were friends, warning us of the upcoming vulgarity and noting that she had permission from her parents, whom she said were in the packed crowd, much to our laughter.
Supported by her friend DJ Aktive on the 1’s and 2’s, Marsha went into a cover of Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall hit “I Can’t Help It,” giving testament to why the late legend made use of her writing and singing abilities with “Butterflies” [she wrote the song and performed the background vocals with MJ on his version]. She powered her way through the song, showing off her expansive vocal range as she continued into “I Hope She Cheats On You With A Basketball Player” with the crowd singing every word back. Following the song Marsha explained that “Sometimes it’s necessary to go in on a bitch,” advising the ladies in the audience to not be “that bitch” and to take pride in their “bitchyness.”
Marsha’s honesty and banter had the crowd laughing like she was a stand-up comedian, and she continued on, discussing why she sings in an American accent despite being a scouser (to much of the crowd’s surprise), complete with a little rendition of what it would sound like. This wasn’t a Jay Electronica type diatribe that cuts the atmosphere and becomes a lecture (and I’m a Jay Elect fan), this was a conversation that continued that insight into just who Marsha is, that I spoke on before, and continued with Marsha introducing a few songs she gets down to when partying in London, with Aktive spinning European hits from A-Ha to Eurythmics and beyond. At one point in a very moving moment she read a tweet that a fan wrote to her, asking Marsha to tell a friend at the gig that she loves her. Needless to say the girl the tweet was directed at was in tears.
Moving to the keyboard, Marsha went into an intimate performance of Floetry favourite “Say Yes,” and with each song continued that unique interaction with the crowd; whether it was revealing how “Say Yes” came about and that it was written for Ron Isley who turned it down, or letting the crowd do their best rendition of “It’s Getting Late” before taking over. Marsha noted that she’d never performed “Chasing Clouds” live before, one of the best songs from her solo debut Late Nights & Early Mornings as it carries such emotion having been written during one of her lowest points. These weren’t just words to trick a crowd, and when Marsha sang, eventually crying as the instrumental went on that emotion carried through the audience, with many in tears themselves.
Following “Far Away,” the songstress was going to give us snippets of her sophomore solo effort, Friends & Lovers, but due to a problem with the sound was unable to. Not one to leave us disappointed she performed “FCKINGITITOVAWID” from her recently released free EP Hors D’Oeuvres and closed with “Cold War,” the first single from her upcoming sophomore LP Friends & Lovers.
While Marsha’s character (and voice of course) brought her a large amount of success as part of Floetry, I think it’s fair to say that her solo work has provided a newfound level of emotion and honesty, giving us a different perspective on her talented vocals and an personal insight into her life that many of her peers shy away from in order to not risk losing their audience.
As the night proved, Marsha Ambrosius is here to stay – and with her refreshing candor and remarkable voice, I doubt anyone’s complaining.
Marsha Ambrosius performs live at SOB’s, New York tonight.