Brighton Festival Review: A Change Is Gonna Come

The show’s title came from Sam Cooke’s inspirational civil rights anthem and, as you’d expect, this was an evening of protest songs performed by four extraordinary women and two equally talented men. The song selection covered many ages and genres and covered topics including race, gender, sexuality and displacement.

Nubya Garcia may not be a household name (yet) but after tearing up The Eagle with Joe Armon-Jones at Mr Bongo’s party last Friday afternoon, we were excited to see what she would come up with tonight. The opening piece was John Coltrane’s ‘Alabama’ and Garcia’s lush tones brought out the deep sadness that inspired the composition. The males of the group were Renell Shaw and Rod Youngs whose bass and drums, along with Nikki Yeoh’s increasingly frenetic soloing helped Garcia reach an exciting peak before returning to a sombre finale.

She may be small but Carleen Anderson has a voice that she seemed to summon from the depths of the Dome. Her stripped back arrangement of Woody Guthrie’s ‘Ain’t Got No Home’ allowed her room to stretch and shine and her stunning range saw her reach the first of many vocal highs. The final component was Mercury Prize winning rapper Speech Debelle who bravely tackled Gil Scott-Heron’s stream-of-consciousness ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’, which sounded unusual but still strong delivered in a British accent before going head-to-head with Garcia on her own ‘No War No Peace’.

Anderson introduced digital harmonies on Brandi Carlile’s recent ‘The Joke’ which was a clever choice and showed again the power of her voice even when seated on a Marvin Gaye medley. Renell Shaw left his bass to take centre stage to showcase his skilful rap flow and Youngs’ solid, extremely funky solo garnered whoops from all over the room.

The Young Disciples’ ‘Freedom’ began with Anderson and Shaw duetting and ended big with Anderson’s digital choir matching then surpassing Yeoh’s Stevie Wonder-like synth stylings. The rarely-covered ‘Four Women’ was a set highlight as Anderson sang each of Nina Simone’s women’s stories moving from a little girl whisper to an embittered growl. A surprise ending saw Nikki Yeoh animatedly slamming the piano lid and punching the keys.

Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ showed that a voice as rare as Anderson’s doesn’t need digital trickery; her performance throughout was nothing less than breathtaking and she had assembled a group of musicians that embraced the theme of the show and worked together to deliver one of the Dome’s best jazz concerts of recent times.

Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Tuesday 22nd May 2018

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Steve Clements

Steve has been a SOURCE contributor since Summer 2010 and also writes for Latest 7 magazine. He moved to Brighton in 2006 after working in London at the Royal Albert Hall, Our Price Music and Teletext. Favourite quote - "There's no such thing as a sold out gig".

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