Estelle, Jazz Cafe, London
Tuesday 15 May 2012
"I do my thing, I do my thing," sings London homegirl
Estelle, all smiles and sassy posture, with an even more ferocious outfit to
"Feel free to hate and complain - I do my thing". This cheeky retort at the start of her intimate Jazz Cafe show seems intended to shut down the many questions that have plagued the curious progression of the 32-year-old's decade-long career. Starting out as a tomboyish UK rapper-cum-singer back in the early noughties, she can be found nowadays living in Brooklyn and rolling with US hip-hop and R&B stars, looking very much the self-assured fashionista and dabbling in all sorts of musical genres - house, electro-dance, pop - which hasn't exactly stopped people on these shores still wondering what she's all about. But when it comes to performing, Estelle goes out in such a fun, likeable way - discussing her poor taste in men, swearing like a sailor and joking about singing American Boy everyday for four years - that her quirks don't even matter.
In one instance she's celebrating her reggae influences on Substitute Lover, Come Over and Bob Marley's Is This Love, pulling a fella on stage to slow wind - "but no touching!" she commands - and the next, she's getting gangster with the swaggering new track International which noticeably quiets the older crowd, but only for a moment. When she resurrects some of her classics like the warm More Than Friends, the crowd are clearly on side - and even when she makes an abrupt switch to dance numbers like Freak, her cover of D'Banj's Oliver Twist and David Guetta's One Love, the party has well and truly begun and her fans are right there with her.
Vocally, she's no Mariah Carey and a bigger band beyond the pair of backing vocalists, a DJ and two musicians would've covered any faults and tackled the choppy setlist better - yet she frequently shines, sounding pretty on the earnest Thank You and Wonderful Life, offering an equally lovely cover of Mary J Blige's Real Love, and wrapping up the evening with a storming sing-a-long of American Boy, which comes with confetti to amp up the celebration. It just means the encore which features 2010's Fall In Love and another heavyweight rap number sort of pales in comparison, but tonight, this multi-faceted lady does things exactly how she wants to - and refreshingly makes no apologies for it.
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