O2 Academy, Oxford
27th March 2014
Not much is accidental about Katy B’s success, but everything about her demeanour suggests she still struggles to believe it and has no intention of taking anything for granted. The Brit School and Goldsmiths pop music graduate, whose association with London community radio station Rinse FM and its head – her producer and co-manager Geeneus – will no doubt always place her at the “cooler” end of the pop naffness scale, is quick to mention, with genuine gratitude, that tonight’s venue was the location of her first headline gig. Even a collaboration with Guy Chambers – resulting in the exquisite “5am” (her second song tonight – no faffing around here) and “Crying With No Reason”, her performance of which is nuanced and captivating – has slotted in perfectly next to the Route 94 and M.J. Cole productions on her second album, “Little Red”.
The new album’s lyrical matter is naturally more mature and reflective than that of debut album “On a Mission”, but the earlier party-going stuff (such as “Katy On A Mission” and “Lights On”) is musically as self-assured as the later heartbreak stuff. She should be far bigger than, say, Emeli Sandé by now; “Still” would be a far bigger hit for Emeli had she got her mitts on it first, though credit to Katy for not wearing the public out through Emeli-esque ubiquity.
The beauty of Katy’s music is the way that her seemingly delicate, soulful and r’n’b-flavoured voice floats dynamically and majestically over all sorts of dubstep-, grime- and house-rooted arrangements, moulding an electronic dance sound that feels well-established yet is unique to her. Even when it gets a bit grandiose – as in the Kanye-like “All My Lovin'” – you can forgive her.
Tonight Katy B proves proper pop stars needn’t be distant, mystical creatures; sometimes someone you genuinely suspect you could be friends with makes the most effective music.
From Nightshift, May 2014