Katy B – Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Monday May 10
At the moment, Katy B’s audience is overwhelmingly teenage and female; at last night’s sold-out show, there were barely any male faces to be seen in the first few rows, which was a rare sight indeed for a venue like the Rescue Rooms. And yet, given the surprisingly traditional nature of her live line-up – the just-turned 22-year-old’s six-piece band included a live drummer, a percussionist and a two-man brass section – you sensed she could be one Jools Holland appearance away from breaking through to an older constituency.
For while Katy’s musical roots might be planted in London’s clubland underground, both her live sound and her onstage performance style suggested a readiness to embrace the wider world. The pre-programmed electronic beats were dialled down, the bowel-quaking dubstep basslines were dampened, and a lighter, sweeter, more fluid – and arguably more feminine – approach prevailed.
As for the girl herself – now halfway through her first headlining tour, and clearly relishing the long-awaited opportunity to introduce herself to her fanbase – any concerns that Katy might have been a touch “too cool for school” were instantly banished by the warm, beaming, petite figure who bounded on stage to greet the room and glad-hand the front ranks. Blending the measured professionalism of a BRIT School graduate with the unforced glee of a natural communicator, she worked hard to charm us, and to connect with us.
Unlike so many of today’s dance-pop divas, whose experiences of being “in the club” probably don’t extend far beyond the VIP section, Katy brings the knowledge and enthusiasm of a true clubber to bear on her music. “I love raving”, she told us, explaining that her love of dance music stems from those moments when an entire dance floor becomes unified by a single, shared feeling, and that her mission as a performer is to recreate those moments for a live audience.
A case in point is Perfect Stranger, which Katy recorded in collaboration with the dubstep act Magnetic Man. Although the song could be read as an account of a one-night stand, it’s actually – as she explained to us in some detail – about catching a stranger’s eye in a crowded club, and realising that both of you are feeling exactly the same emotions. It’s one of the defining pop vocal performances of the past twelve months, and its singer did it full justice on the night, galvanising the crowd into fist-pumping delirium.
Appropriately enough, the set closed with Lights On, which was dedicated to anyone who has ever wanted to carry on dancing at the end of a club night, when the house lights are back up and most punters are already queueing for their coats. “This has been the best show on the tour so far”, we were told. The pleasure was all ours, Katy.