POP D'Influence / Youngbloods Convention Shepherds Bush Empire, London
Wednesday 25 June 1997
But D'Influence weren't at the Shepherds Bush Empire on Friday just to play music; The Youngbloods II tour is to raise awareness of blood diseases that effect black people almost exclusively and encourage new blood donors. D'Influence suffered the effects of one of these diseases at first hand when the backing singer, Viki St James, fell ill with Aplastic Anaemia.
D'Influence looked like an updated version of the classic R'n'B ensemble, harking back to the days when the groove was the thang and it was mandatory that all soul band members dressed the same. Clad uniformly in white, as opposed to the more traditional lounge suits, they exuded the unfortunate air of soul professors concocting new sounds and melodies to which to move your feet with trained scientific precision.
But although the songs are bolted together with breathtaking accuracy, the tight urban noise that reverberated on Friday night had, at heart, emotion and passion in the form of singer Sarah Ann Webb.
She took the modern soul blueprint, as with the latest single "Hypnotize", and shifted the song up a notch, transforming it into the perfect soundtrack for a carefree summer's evening. The music kicked up a swirling storm of insidiously infectious dance sound that only the most leaden-footed could ignore. The style is called new urban soul but it's not new in any way apart from the way it flows together, mixing influences from Stax, Motown and funk in a way that could see even America fall under D'Influence.
The band proved themselves adept, even when their attention was drawn to the most fragile of pop artefacts - the ballad. Touching and tender and packed with soul, D'Influence reminded us why this concert was taking place at all.
In contrast to D'Influence's mix of soul traditions, Attica Blues, who opened the night, were selfconsciously modern. It was all edgy, dirty, scratching, loops and funky drumming topped by a soul-belting voice courtesy of diva, Roba El Essawy. It was the soundtrack to the coolest urban road movie never made from a band who's debut album hasn't even been released. Kwesi, second on the bill, clearly felt he was the natural inheritor to Marvin Gaye circa What's Going On. And his voice certainly lent in that direction. But songs like "There's a Riot in Brixton" and its earnest attempt to produce contemporary soul snapshots of Britain were undermined by jazz arrangements and indulgent guitar solos that screamed session musicians rather than emotion.
For more information on the Youngbloods Tour contact the Sickle Cell Society, London NW10 (0181-961 7795)
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 2 Antonio Martin shooting: Mayor says there should be 'no comparison' to Ferguson
- 3 Antonio Martin shooting: Police and protesters clash over teenager's death just five miles from Ferguson, Missouri
- 4 Northern Lights above Britain: Stunning Aurora Borealis illuminates Northumberland sky on Christmas Eve
- 5 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Cruel Woman in Black prank sees cinema-goers terrified by movie poster - watch their reactions
Best underrated Christmas movies: From Trading Places to While You Were Sleeping
Game of Thrones season five: First preview clip shows a beardy Tyrion, a moody Cersei and a distressed Arya
Christmas TV guide 2014: The best shows to watch from Doctor Who to Downton Abbey
Transformers 4 named highest-grossing movie of 2014 ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever