Last night wrapped up a monumental weekend in San Francisco. Estimates suggested that one million people entered the city to enjoy one of the many events including Hardly Strictly Blue Grass Festival, America’s Cup, Fleet Week, Giants’ playoffs, and the 49ers’ game.
If you were like me, and trying to avoid these large groups of people, you wouldn’t have found your sanctuary at the Independent on Sunday night. Fans of North Londoner Michael Kiwanuka mustered up the strength to add one more night to the crazy weekend.
I made it in time to catch Nathaniel Rateliff perform a few songs that got the crowd riled up. A man and his guitar typically leads to a sleeper of a set for me, but Rateliff sang songs of his late great-grandfather who was a bootlegger, engaged the crowd with jokes about his weight, drugs of choice, and even the lyrics to a song that suggested he was looking more and more like his mother. It was a pleasant surprise to hear his great vocal range and enthusiastic guitar play.
By comparison to Rateliff, Michael Kiwanuka and his band could barely fit on the stage, with a total of seven band members, but they cut right to the chase with one of my favorite songs, “I’ll Get Along,” from his first studio album, Home Again. Kiwanuka’s vocals shine throughout the catchy tune.
Taking cues from Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield, he has the ability to sing emotional lyrics with a light and airy delivery. The music changed tunes throughout the show, from songs that had the crowd (and house sound engineer) dancing to slowly swaying during soothing tunes such as his album’s title track, “Home Again.” The band even included an extended 12-minute jam session.
At the tender age of 24, Michael Kiwanuka’s career appears to be just getting started. He was recently announced the winner of BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll, and his album has reached #4 on the UK charts. I look forward to keeping an eye out for him as he continues to find himself as a solo artist.