Miguel, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

 

If the new wave of US r’n’b really is all about existential angst and conflicting emotions, no one has told Miguel Pimentel, an exponent perfectly happy to rip off his vest to show off an admirably toned physique to please an excitable audience. 

Little, then, to remind us why this fast-rising, LA-raised artist has been grouped with Frank Ocean and The Weeknd as evidence the genre can be progressive enough to provide more than bump ‘n’ grind lyrics over relentless EDM beats.

Miguel himself first emerged in 2010 with the smooth, if largely conventional, debut album All I Want Is You. Its slow-burn success provided the platform for the leftfield turn he took with his free Art Dealer Chic EPs, before last October’s follow-up Kaleidoscope Dream saw him mix funk rock with softer, more psychedelic textures. The Grammy-nominated singer and writer has since been snapped at a studio with Beyoncé, suggesting his skills are now well in demand, though any subtlety is shelved tonight as the Mexican/Afro Caribbean performer body pops round his mike stand as a four-piece band flays his artful constructions with unreconstructed hard rock.

While squalling guitar solos have been integral to soul since Michael Jackson’s Bad days, Miguel seems convinced Sunset Boulevard poodle metal should provide more than a cameo. Yet such bombast and bluster smothers the vulnerable appeal of "Use Me", with the singer himself hectoring more than he teases. At least such backing provides an ironic layer to soften the awkwardly needy "Pussy Is Mine". Eventually, the group settle into a lighter groove, providing ample space for the irresistible funk of “Do You…” Miguel then shows what he is capable of, dropping in a snatch of Bob Marley’s "Stir It Up" as his musicians switch to an easy-going reggae rhythm.

He manages to silence his screeching fans long enough to deliver the solemn "Candles In The Sun", where Miguel lifts from pensive disquiet to raging at injustice. See, he can get away from bedroom matters, though tonight focuses on lust. a subject he expounds on with some pizzazz, especially with his supercharged hit single "Adorn". Showcasing his honeyed vocal, Miguel’s impassioned and sincere delivery gives a modern answer to Marvin Gaye’s "Sexual Healing" and the rampaging guitar fails to intrude.

In many ways, he may simply be a soul singer following a classic tradition, but comes with enough talent to make that concept sound fresh once more.

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