Stepping into the gig room of Headrow House one rainy evening, the world of b-ahwe had completely transformed it into a mystical wonderland – a swirling colour scheme of projected paintings and art installations, combined with the infused sounds of jazz and hip-hop to stun all the senses (and of course some craft IPA to stimulate the tastebuds, if you like).
A rising local musician, b-ahwe’s neo-soul sounds were the basis for the evening; the lineup, a range of musicians she had collected on her travels whilst performing all over the UK this year. Opening up the show was Leeds’ very own superstar DJ NikNak, the multitalented legend you may have seen headlining such local events as SlutDrop, Equaliser and PubDub. Her skills in creating a welcoming ambience were clear, with sunny RnB tracks blending into recognisable jazzy hits.
NikNak’s tunes also featured between each set, a perfect backdrop for the conversation that flowed within the community-like audience; each attendee seemed absolutely delighted to see every new act perform, beginning with the psych-rock band LADY . The band stars b-ahwe’s own little sister, the Lady herself, whose distinctly strong and twangy vocals called out over noodle-y electric guitar and a strong drum rhythm.
Rosie Tee and her band next took to the stage, an eclectic act with a distinct synth-y alt-pop sound. With this Leeds date of her current UK tour, she paid homage to one of their self-cited inspirations, Submotion Orchestra; it was easy to see the influence of this Leeds behemoth upon Tee’s own music, with her vocals verging from humming to lyrics being crooned in tune with the smooth synth and minimalistic live drum beats. Previewing their new track ‘Wither’, the captivated audience heard the lush, harmonious sounds of this smooth song before Tee and her band whisked away into the hubbub of the crowd.
Finally, the long-awaited moment; b-ahwe and her extraordinary live band, unannounced but immediately silencing the present crowd, spun into a rendition of one of her unreleased tracks, ‘Sliding’. The lilt of b-ahwe’s prosaically lyrical vocals commanded attention from the room, seeming to slide themselves over the high-hat-heavy drums and seductive keys.
Next came the track ‘Rising’, an older single with a jazzy keys solo, and b-ahwe’s angelic trill veering into an unexpected additional rapped verse which the crowd reacted to with an incredible clamour of supportive voices. The live band aspect was incredibly coordinated, with each instrument’s distinct flow harmonising with b-ahwe herself acting as composer.
Then, she proclaimed, it was time for “the reason we’re all here tonight”, ‘Closer’ , the first single from her yet to be released first full EP (possibly named Sweetener, she hinted). A warm song about the good shining through the bad times, she called into the darkness of the room: “Come in close, and I’ll let you in on this precious secret”. With lush vocals from the front-woman herself and her three-piece, all female backing choir, the room was entranced.
As b-ahwe laughingly put it, the band then performed a ‘Destiny’s Child-esque’ rendition of one of her earlier single releases, ‘Blue Print’ – with achingly sweet vocals from herself and each of her live band vocalists. She rounded things off with another unreleased track, ‘Ready’, a slightly synth-heavier track that seemed to reflect each of the different bands that had performed before her on this night.
Acknowledgements to SUPER Friendz, the stunning artwork of Marie Collier, and thank you once again to b-ahwe for welcoming me into her wonderful world.
Header Image Credit from Somewhere Soul