Words by Giles Logan / Pics by Rob Hadley
Anyone doubting the vitality of Birmingham’s music scene would have done well to spend Thursday evening in the company of 600 clued up and revved up punters at the O2 Academy. Escaping the chilly evening air for a full on sweat session rammed in amongst a multitude of smiling faces, positive energy and good vibes to get down with three of the city’s finest artists.
Opening the gig is impossible human beatboxing singer songwriter, Ed Geater. He is one of those people possessed of an assured likeability that is infectious. It shines through in his music and demeanour, as he seamlessly slips through a range of styles with an affability that invites warmth and affection.
Ed Geater is an artist with a clear vertical trajectory towards success, recent release ‘Symmetry’, which got an outing here, displays a maturity and sound that could easily crack the mainstream. His one-man band live performances are utterly breathtaking.
Without pause, beats and rhythms are sampled and looped building unique melodies over which Geater’s vocals veer from mournful to uplifting with ease. It was a set ripe with new material, is there an album due…? There should be.
Time to get funked up with the smooth hip hop of Kofi Stone. A full live band adds a sharp frisson to Stone’s raps, relaxed and confident his verse trills easily and rapidly with just a hint of Dizzee about it. For several moments throughout the audience nods appreciatively in unison as the laconically soulful beats carry Stone’s ‘real’ stories, delivered with a humble panache. Stand out track was the chilled and just a little melancholic ‘Stories in Pyjamas’, a laid back nod to innocent days.
With Kioko moments away the audience has swelled dramatically; getting served at the bar is a mission best left for the critically masochistic, room two at the O2 Academy is certainly as full as any gig we can remember.
That thrilling electrical buzz of anticipation begins to energise an eager crowd, exacerbating that is the violent bass switched to almost ear drum bursting levels as Kioko’s intro, Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’, rattles senses and the PA. Kioko take to the stage in a blur of riotous fizzed up energy which they incredibly manage to maintain throughout. Trumpeter and backing vocalist, Ewan Whyte, is a rocket fuelled missile of skanking effervescence; flailing arms, stomping feet and quite possibly the world’s most relentless grin. And he still has the breath to blow into his trumpet. Ewan we salute you.
The seven piece Brummie reggae band are having the time of their lives and this transmits effortlessly to a bouncing crowd. Yes, the songs are great, but that connection with their audience is immutable and very special.
At one point the band run through a roll call of city suburbs to establish fan demographic, with each location receiving a loud cheer as they are announced: Harborne, Bearwood, Kings Heath, Northfield and on, but curiously no cheers for Stirchley (where were you?). Participation is irresistible and even the most recalcitrant of punters, yes us, found ourselves getting down low in a crouch, jumping from side to side, waving our hands in the air or grinning at our neighbours following Kioko’s instructions to, “get the fuck down”.
Songs that stuck out for us were new track ‘Mercy’, which was dedicated to Theresa May, the stripped back emotion of ‘Kiss Away’ and the mighty dub rhythm of ‘Kioko Skank’ – Keeeeooooookoooo. Most impressive was an encore of the anthemic ‘Deadly Roots’, with the band joined on stage by Ed Geater and Kofi Stone.
A triumvirate of essential Birmingham musical talent sharing one stage, what a moment. An incredible gig and thrilling testament to the impact a growing number of artists are having in the city.
Wuzza Mill – supporting Kioko @ O2 Academy 26.10.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review
For more on Wuzza Mill, visit https://soundcloud.com/wuzzamill
Kofie Stone – supporting Kioko @ O2 Academy 26.10.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review
For more on Kofi Stone, visit www.soundcloud.com/kofistone
Ed Geater – supporting Kioko @ O2 Academy 26.10.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review
For more on Ed Geater, visit www.edgeater.co.uk
Kioko @ O2 Academy 26.10.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review
For more on Kioko, visit www.soundcloud.com/kiokomusicuk
For more from the O2 Academy, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academybirmingham
For more from DHP Family, visit www.dhpfamily.com