Taio Cruz, Academy 2, Sheffield
Thursday 14 August 2008
Hesitant and bashful, UK R'n'B's latest hope must be more confident in the studios of America's hottest producers than at this Yorkshire venue's learner stage. At least, Taio Cruz's CV emphasises his accomplishments behind the mixing desk more than in his slowly burgeoning solo career.
This 26-year-old Sussex lad has already co-written the 2005 Brit Awards' best single – "Your Game" for Will Young and is now making a name for himself in more rarefied company. For some of the biggest hit-makers at home and abroad, think Simon Cowell here and Timbaland protégé Jim Beanz in the US, he is working on material for Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Leona Lewis. However, back in the spring, Cruz's album Departure merely grazed the Top 20.
Even then, an ability to celebrate contemporary styles without kowtowing to American tastes has already won him admirers, celebrity and otherwise. Forthcoming single "She's a Star" comes with a remix that features cameos from an unlikely combination of Busta Rhymes and the Sugababes. No such stellar support, mind, on his first gig outside London, with a motley crew of a band that includes a guitarist that looks like one of The Sopranos' seedy Italian cousins.
What his band lack in cohesion, the clued-up fans make up for, chanting all Cruz's uplifting choruses. Through the murky sound system, you still sense the carefully wrought momentum of Cruz's songs. Especially impressive is "Moving On", spare enough to survive such mauling. Given Cruz turned down a place at Oxford to concentrate on his music career, it is disappointing that he seems to have cribbed his lyrics from online essays. There is silky smoothness in "I Just Wanna Know", but "She's a Star" is as gooey as anything from an X Factor contestant.
With its house beat, "Come On Girl" could have been written with a Sheffield audience in mind, whether Gatecrasher's ravers or that new generation with this year's sound, the four-four/R'n'B crossover of bassline. With wide-eyed enthusiasm and lack of oomph in the undercarriage, Cruz's version sounds more like that bizarre British mix of rap and acid beats, hip house. In his sensitive hands, though, it is less monstrous hybrid and more a winning combination that could revive the career of many a struggling star name.
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 4 Bob Geldof offers to take four refugee families into his home 'immediately' as he condemns humanitarian crisis as a ‘f**king disgrace'
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Three million books were judged by their covers - this is what happened
Anne Hathaway is already being stung by Hollywood ageism, aged 32
No Escape, film review: Thriller generates plenty of excitement but soon collapses
The Lobster trailer: Colin Farrell has 45 days to find a lover or he'll be turned into an animal
Spanish town saved by botched restoration of century-old Christian 'Ecce Homo' fresco of Jesus
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be