Review of the Pure Gold Festival @the Albany Theatre and Homecut Live @the Southbank Centre

I have been blessed enough to attend two quality gigs in as many days, both of which are welcome reminders of the wealth of up and coming talent here in good old Blighty.

Last night was the penultimate show of the ‘Pure Gold’ music festival at the Albany Theatre, Deptford SE London. The whole of this week has been dedicated to showcasing the many and diverse talents of final year Music and Performing Arts students from Goldsmiths University. Gigs like this are priceless for the simple reason that having little idea of who these artists were before, you can approach the night without preconceptions. And you are more than likely to be pleasantly surprised by just how gifted some of these acts are.

The night got underway with a couple of songs from warm-up act, Simon Cliffe and his band. They whet the audience’s appetite with their sophisticated and potent lyrics all presented to us in a self-effacing manner that belied the maturity of their sound. Then we really got down to business when the aptly named Sam Beste took to his piano to give us a jazz-soaked interpretation of the first six songs of Marvin Gaye’s seminal ‘What’s Going on?’ album. Beste’s beautiful, fluid playing was complemented by some cool as *expletive* double bass (played by Tom Hanson) and smoothed out drums (Tom Skinner), that enthralled those present. Behind the scenes Mr Beste is a jocular fellow with show-stopping charisma. He brings that same charisma to his playing as well as undeniable dedication to the craft. salutes you.

Next up we were treated to some of the impressive songwriting skills of one Miss BB Bywater. BB’s manner on stage is an engaging one, reflected in her off-the-cuff banter with the crowd. Special mention to Mercy and Katanya on backing vocals who very nearly stole the show. The evening got a bit more eclectic when virtuoso guitarist and Aussie native Liam McGrath and band stepped up to do their thing.

Abimaro Suit
Abimaro Suit

But the night truly belonged to Abimaro Suit, who’s performance was last but in no way least. Anyone privileged enough to spend time in Miss Suit’s company would agree that she’s the closest thing to a walking beam of sunshine most of us are likely to come across. She is warmth personified on and off stage and if in any doubt her sizeable fan base present in the audience were testament to this. Singing all her own compositions, whilst big sis Lakwena’s graphics flashed on the main screen, Abimaro’s set kicked off with the acappella number, ‘Carry me’; a song replete with gorgeous melody, edible harmonies and foot stomps, a hearty nod to her East African roots. Abimaro’s dulcet, rasp-tinged voice soared over the flawless BGVs as she makes unabashed appeal to her heavenly Saviour. Suit’s poetic prowess is evident in her thought provoking lyrics as she covers varied topics – faith, unconditional love, identity and life in general. Songs like ‘21’ (accompanied by the superb MK on acoustic guitar) and ‘I only boast’ display sagacity beyond her 21 years. This young lady has some serious stage presence too, assuredly addressing the crowd without being in the least bit conceited. Plus her easy rapport with the backing vocalists is a delight to watch.

At the end of Abi’s set, the audience were on their feet for a well deserved ovation, with the artist of the hour giving humble thanks to her family and all those who contributed to such an outstanding performance. On my walk back to the bus stop I heard some ladies still buzzing from the night’s events. Despite sketchy knowledge of the lyrics, they were doing their best to belt ‘I only boast’. In a nutshell, if you don’t yet know Miss Suit’s music get to know ( Watch this space for an exclusive interview with the lady herself in the coming weeks.

Fast forward 24 hours and, I’m just fresh from another live set, this time a freebie courtesy of the Southbank Centre. Tonight it was the turn of Hip-Hop fusion outfit, Homecut, to leave me cheerily impressed (even though I missed the first half due to a mixture of bad timing, dodgy transport and my habit of confusing the Southbank Centre with the National Theatre). Actually, it’s a bit unfair to try and categorise artists at all, especially ones as versatile as Homecut. Hip-Hop fusion doesn’t sufficiently define their sound. Catch them live, then you’ll get my gist.

Homecut's Testament
Homecut's Testament

The group is fronted by the lyrically agile Testament and a more adorably personable front man you will not find. Seeing someone so comfortable on stage is entertainment in itself. More importantly, Testament reminded me that intelligent, insightful spoken word is alive and well. Backed by his crew of tight musicians and their jazz-infused beats, he rhymes, freestyles, beatboxes and sings sweetly in both English and the Ga language of his mother’s native Ghana. One of the several highlights of the half of the show I did manage to catch was the band’s homage to rap or the ‘Homecut mix tape’ as they called it. Without being overly deferential to the mainstream, the mix had something for everyone. Even someone with my limited knowledge of Hip-Hop music could recognise the band’s take on celebrated tracks by the likes of Gangstarr, Busta Rhymes and Dead Prez.

Homecut is something of a precious find. A Hip Hop influenced outfit with refreshing lyrics, no trace of profanity or casual misogyny, able to convince a skeptic like myself, who usually has a slight aversion to the genre, to sit up and listen. And no fake-a*s* Yankee twang in sight. Score!

Homecut’s debut album ‘No Freedom Without Sacrifice’ is out at the end of May 2009 featuring guest appearances by Corinne Bailey Rae and Soweto Kinch amongst others. For more info and to sample some of the tracks visit

Review by Tolita.