The Brand New Heavies,The Loose Cannons [Electro] Live Review @ Scala (London) - 12 Sep 2006
The Brand New Heavies are back (again) - this time with original lead singer N'dea Davenport. Their last comeback was just over a year ago with the superb Allaboutthefunk which featured English singer Nicole Russo on vocal duty. It has to be said that the Heavies (Jan Kincaid, Simon Bartholomew and Andrew Levy) know a thing or two about lead singers having recruited N'dea, Siedah Garrett, Carleen Anderson and Nicole Russo at various times - all of whom have great voices.
Tonight's support act was UK dance/ funk outfit Loose Cannons. The name Cannons was certainly appropriate, as two songs in my hearing just about went thanks to the volume + depth of the bass. Initially playing to quite a small crowd, the flamboyant lead singer didn't let that deter him from asking for the audience to make some noise, claps their hands or just generally join in. Having listened to some of their samples from their site before the gig, I wasn't expecting much, but they were a lot better live. The lineup included a keyboard player cum bassist, drummer, samplist/ background singer, background/ lead singer, guitarist and the front man on vocals + occasional rhythm guitar. This made for quite a messy sound at times, which was probably the point. It was all a little predictable, in the "start a groove, build on it" vein, with added live "vocal samples" added to the mix. To their credit they got the crowd going quite nicely. Best track for me was one which I think was called Superstar.
Enter Jan, Simon and Andrew - fashionably late, but to rapturous applause, featuring a three piece horn section (trombone, sax and trumpet/ flugelhorn), keyboard player and a percussionist. Opening with an early funk instrumental, on comes N'dea to the delight of the crowd as the opening bars of Dream on Dreamer are being played.
With N'dea at the helm, she quickly pointed out that the heavies were back how they should be and we shouldn't be expecting any numbers from those times without her (ie. Shelter and Allaboutthefunk), which meant that there was little opportunity for Jan to take lead vocal duty. Early on he was up from behind his kit to sing the duet Get Back to Love, but that was his lot at front of stage for the night!
Throughout, the band were tight, with all participants playing their parts, but it was at times hard to hear the keyboard as the groove was kicking-in (but this could have been due to my ears being shot by the earlier act). I always love a live horn section, and it was great that each of them had their own solo spot during the course of the night. N'dea was certainly in "chat" mode, enjoying banter with the crowd and band at all times, and she was certainly on form with respect to her singing. The new numbers taken from Get Used to it did seem to get a cooler reception, up until they played their cover of Stevie Wonder's I Don't Know Why I Love You. It has never been one of my favourite tracks, but it was sung with such devotion, with the backing adding to the tension, that I really loved their version of the number.
The set list was reasonably predictable, given that they were in comeback mode, and included the usual suspects - most of which are contained on their Platinum Collection released earlier this year. These included: Midnight at the Oasis, Never Stop, Don't Let it go to Your Head, Brother Sister and Dream come True - which was saved for the encore.
N'dea's devotion to the BNH cause is obviously a strong one, as she seems to have a tattoo in the shape of the BNH logo on her right arm - now that's dedication, and hopefully a sign that she'll be with them for years to come!
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