Gig review: Katy B - XOYO, London

 

At Katy B's first headline show in London for "like a year or something", the singer excitedly announced that her second album will be called Little Red, before singing a tempting selection of the new album's tracks.

After a short stint from Rinse FM's crew of DJs, the flame-haired singer took to the stage with a double hitter of "Aaliyah" and the first single of her new album, "What Love is Made Of".

Clutching her sparkling microphone, she asked the crowd, "Would you like to hear songs from my new album?" to a resounding cry of, "Yes!" "It’s called Little Red," she said, exclaiming how good it felt to say that before going into the crisp and minimal "Next Thing".

Throwing up her hands and high-fiving the crowd, Katy B was involving and likeable. Her sense of fun was twinned with her unbelievable vocal control: pitch-perfect and effortless she swooped, trembled and held notes easily over juicy breakbeats.

The Mercury-nominated singer went on to play "Sapphire Blue", written with Jacques Greene and "All My Lovin", a noirish dance track that tones down producer Joker's harsh, bass-heavy sound.

"Crying For No Reason" was the highlight of the night, as Katy B scrupulously avoided the kind of melismatic over-singing that’s so common thanks to TV talent shows. The inevitable ballad was, however, surprisingly heartfelt, fitting strangely well with the night's half-beat club hits.

New single "5AM" captured those lost-in-the-moment dance floor reveries, with Katy B almost uniquely writing pop music about clubbing as a pop singer who's actually been to a proper nightclub.

While the night was dedicated to the new album, Katy B let rip with her two big hitters "On A Mission" and a sped up "Lights On", ending in an odd but perfectly pitched instrumental choice of D'Banj's bum-wobbling Afro-beat-meets-hip-hop "Oliver Twist".

As Katy B's debut album On a Mission worked to show off her knack for weaving together her credible roots and influences with popular trends, the glimpse of Little Red suggests she's managed to do it again.

Not only has she matured as a performer, but also in her ability to control the producers she works with, using her voice to pin down their extremes and uncover the best of her hook-laden, melodically rich pop.

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