Katy B – Nottingham Rock City, Tuesday October 18
For once – and this doesn’t happen too often, so it’s worth noting – the teenage girls and the broadsheet music critics are of one mind. Katy B’s shrewd mix of underground dance with mainstream pop has enough club credibility to please the purists, enough musical weight to impress the Mercury Prize judges, enough tuneful accessibility to delight the pop fans, and enough warmth, heart and energy to ignite a live audience.
She has visited us a couple of times before: at Trent University with Magnetic Man, and at the Rescue Rooms, five months ago, where the crowd was even more overwhelmingly young and female than it is now. Katy and MC Tippa, her long-time stage collaborator, have been playing a game on the current tour: who can shout the loudest, the girls or the boys? Every night, Tippa has been trying his hardest to score a win for the lads (“Just once, guys – please!”), only to be trounced by the deafening screams of Katy’s ladies.
“Who here was born in the Eighties?”, asks Katy. There are a few cheers. “And who here was born in the NINETIES?”, she continues. Ouch, my poor eardrums. “In that case, your mum and dad were probably making love to this one”, she grins, introducing a cover of Inner City’s classic house anthem Good Life, oblivious to the winces of those of us who were dancing to it the first time round.
Released almost exactly a year ago, Magnetic Man’s album still casts a strong spell over Katy’s crowd. In common with both of her support acts – rapper P Money and a re-emerging Ms Dynamite, back in the game after an extended maternity break – Katy appeared on the album, and the mere mention of its name drew wild applause. Perfect Stranger is the track in question. In Katy’s hands, the bowel-quaking dubstep of Magnetic Man’s original is given a lighter, friskier, but no less powerful treatment. It’s typical of Katy’s approach, which seeks to convey her love of club culture to a mass audience, and which celebrates the joy that can be found on the dancefloor.
It was no surprise to see Ms Dynamite back on stage for the encore, duetting with Katy on their shared hit Lights On. The two artists share the same infectiously sunny approach to performing, and the smiles from the stage spread through the whole room, leaving us on the highest of highs.