“Go baby, go baby go, don’t upset the rhythm though,” screeches Shingai Shoniwa above the roars of the crowd cheering on Ben Ainslie’s gold in the sailing and a sublime Andy Murray backhand in the tennis.
An intimate and appreciative congregation witness a blistering and truncated set from the slender Shinowa and her polished outfit, led by guitarist Dan Smith, on a teeny stage in the corner of Hyde Park, which is home to thousands taking in the Olympics on numerous big screens.
A defiantly non-diva like Shinowa spunkily sings over the Union Jack-waving sport fanatics, tearing through the Noisettes’ most recognisable hits, plus a sassy Kinks cover (“Sunny Afternoon”) and two of the perkier tracks, “That Girl” and “Ragtop Car”, from their upcoming, all-important third album, Contact .
Their second, the unfussy, Phil Spector-like Wild Young Hearts , received enthusiastic reviews and two of the record’s songs (“Wild Young Hearts” and “Don’t Upset the Rhythm”) have been used on commercials: skincare and motors. This pop/R&B act doesn’t make music to scare the horses. They sing about friendship, hangovers, broken hearts and first loves, with a tiny hint of melancholy on songs such as “Wild Young Hearts”: “I’m not what I was last summer/ Not who I was in the spring.”
The 30-year-old Shinowa, who is sporting dazzling bronze-coloured butterfly wings (when she gets too hot she flings them off in the direction of the keyboardist) on her back and a rockabilly curl in her hair, is the absolute focus of the slightly surreal 3pm show.
At one stage the potent singer claws at her audience and purrs at us like Eartha Kitt; later on she demands that a burly security guard carry her on his shoulders through the crowd during their fragrant lost love number “Never Forget You” with the memorable lyric “We just got swallowed up/ By the whole damn world.”
At another point the barefoot chanteuse exclaims “the stage is cooking my feet”, her gallant guitarist duly places down a mat for her baking toes, but Shinowa bounces off it and into the crowd. The Londoner is an ebullient, infectious performer and her jazzy lilt on the new upbeat single “That Girl” is a highlight here. It’s a simple pop delight that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Ronettes setlist. Their other new song, “Ragtop Car”, with Smith’s exquisite mandolin accompaniment, recalls JJ Cale.
It’s a brief, giddy pop performance from a pleasingly unaffected band, with a gold-standard star turn in Shinowa.
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