Nathan Watson x Louise Golbey @ London Jazz Café (6/10/10) | Live Review

Nathan Watson took to the Jazz Cafe stage last Wednesday stage with boyish style, rocking a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt combined with the iconic ’60s Hendrix jacket, an afro reminiscent of Maxwell’s Now phase and a band composed with similar Motown funk/rock soul retro appeal.

I was confused for a second and didn’t know what to expect from such a visual rainbow of black music triggers (Nathan and guitarist have enough hair to weave both Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan‘s heads). However, as soon as the soul man opened his mouth, he captured our attention with a swooping high falsetto asking us repeatedly: “Are you ready? Jazz Café, are you ready?”

As songs progress, the visual references rapidly turn into sonic ones and the jigsaw puzzle is complete – that is, swinging from funk, soul, classic rock tinged with pop the songs are eclectic reminiscent of an older day brought elegantly and with pertinence to today.

The couple of covers Watson and co performed emphasised just that; Stevie Wonder‘s “Superstition”, a bold choice compensated by his sublime band and John Legend‘s “Ordinary People” fitting like a glove into his sweet, fragile voice that definitely has a bigger impact on stripped down tracks. Ultimately a fantastic cover, making the song his own on lead guitar instead of the piano driven original. That’s ultimately what a cover should be all about; appropriation not imitation.

Nathan and band won the crowd with ease – they actually had us at “Hello”… He is sort of a British Ben Harper with bigger soul references. It’s a shame that the recorded version of many of these songs don’t have half of the live impact; forced rhymes like “If you’re feeling down, come on down, cause we can talk about James Brown,” are naive at best, but largely compensated by heart felt delivery.

If Nathan deserves anything it is to be recognised for making beautiful, innocent, soulful up-lifting music. In times of synth fascism in the charts and x-factors, it’s refreshing and welcoming to witness.
Opening act Louise Golbey deserves a top bill – she’s too good for an opening act and after her relentless touring through London, it’s consensual that the singer songwriter has perfected the neo-soul formula, word of mouth in the smoking area; “She’s amazing,” “She reminds me of early Badu.” I concur. We hear she’s being produced by Drew Hawley (Estelle, Ty, Natalie Williams, De la Soul) so expect beautiful things from her in the future. x

Reviewed by Hugo Salvaterra
Photography by Neil Raja & Nirja Raam

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