“We’re snug as bugs in here!” beamed Neneh Cherry as she took to the Prince Albert’s frankly way too small stage on Sunday night.
This was the second of two relatively hush-hush and swiftly sold out nights the singer played at the venue, alongside her band – the formidable pair of brothers with whom she made last year’s ‘Blank Project’ album – RocketNumberNine.
While that album made up 95% of the set-list, even those who’d never heard a note of it left as new converts to Cherry’s brutal soul. Her voice remains impeccable, barely changed from the treacle-rich timbre she began her career with, and for a 50-year-old, she was more playful and fun than you’d ever expect. At points a pure fuzz of hair, at others a stock-still chanteuse, she joked, messed about and basically seemed to be having a great time. “I might move into the flat upstairs and play here every night,” she teased, buoyed by the crowd’s continued applause, each and every person in the somewhat bafflingly hot venue not wanting her to do anything else.
The excellent ‘Out Of The Black’ single, despite not featuring Robyn tonight (as it does on record) could well have been the evening’s best moment, aided by familiarity from radio play – were it not for two classics. Midway through the evening Cherry announced that she and her band had “reworked a few oldies” – in this case ‘Manchild’ – but the version played was basically identical save RocketNumberNine’s metronomic live drums, Cherry spitting out the lyrics perfectly, flitting between soulful cooing to snappy, syllable-heavy rant.
Then, as a finale, she did the song few thought she would – ‘Buffalo Stance’. Neneh Cherry’s time machine qualities shone through once more, her energetic moves, over an hour into the set, not obstructing the delivery of the rapid-fire verses, each and every rhyme dispatched bang on the pulse. For five minutes it was 1988 in Brighton again.
There was no need for this artist to play a venue so small, so sweetly ramshackle, but so perfectly suited to her (and her band’s) sound. If and when Neneh Cherry chooses to play larger venues or festivals again (and judging by the speed at which these nights sold out, she could very easily), we wonder if something might just get lost in the translation to bigger crowds. A truly ‘I was there’ moment, to use a corny phrase.
Neneh Cherry, Prince Albert, Sunday 25th January 2015
Words by Jake Kennedy