Lady Blackbird sings the Blues at O2 Sheperds Bush Empire

Lady Blackbird sings the Blues at O2 Sheperds Bush Empire

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LA musician Marley Munroe’s debut album Black Acid Soul as Lady Blackbird has garnered 5-star reviews from The Times and The Guardian, and the Metro urged fans to ‘See her before she goes galactic”. Her sold-out show at London’s legendary Shepherd’s Bush Empire was her only UK performance of her current European tour, after a major support slot with Gregory Porter and even performing at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee concert.

Impressing the likes of Bono and Taylor Swift on The Graham Norton Show last year, her rise has been a heady journey. She told The Guardian recently: “I’ve done it all, from the cover gigs in hotel bars to rock, R&B and soul.”

With a teasing, deeply dramatic start the show explodes into action with a loud cymbal clash, her band of double bass, percussionist and guitarist riffing expertly to her album’s deliciously atmospheric title track Black Acid Soul.

She flamboyantly enters the stage in a leotard with a large black visor hat partly obscuring her face and adding to her mysterious allure, her distinctive peroxide afro almost moonlike in its magnificence set against a black galactic backdrop.

Her fierce and unforgiving look is fitting for a vocalist who has been dubbed by Gilles Peterson as the ‘Grace Jones of Jazz’.

Lady Blackbird’s second song Walk With Me showcases her effortless vocal range with just her distinctive soulful voice over a drum beat delivered with a devastatingly raw simplicity.

The tribal hum layering the lyrics is simply hypnotic. Next up is Blackbird by Nina Simone, a brave song to cover but she is more than capable, her stunning voice conveying its powerful message of resilience in the face of oppression.

Its searing lyrics ‘No place big enough for holding all the tears you’re gonna cry’ hit even harder with the rawness and power of her vocals. 

This was not a performance without humour, Lady Blackbird regularly entertaining the crowd with colourful anecdotes and her distinctive, infectious raspy laugh, even recommending a local nail salon, where she had an “Excellent mani-pedi today”.

She announces that being in London “Feels like being home, we started here and ended here, you packed the f+++ing place out, thank you for rounding out a lovely tour. We were supposed to leave tomorrow but have just booked Jonathan Ross, everyone watch, tell your friends”. 

She is joined on stage for Five Feet Tall by her producer Chris Seefried, a guitar virtuoso recalling the psychedelic jangling sound of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. Indeed, the band are so expert Lady Blackbird regularly takes to standing at the side of the stage to listen and join the audience in rapt applause of their skills. 

For Beatles cover Come Together she appears with a shiny black plastic bolero almost as if she is wearing a giant record, to compliment the Philip Treacy-esque hat, and her high tempo, funk-fuelled version of the classic gets the best response yet from the crowd.

Triumphant encore opener I Am What I Am is a very apt choice for this powerful idiosyncratic singer, and the first time she appears without her face partially obscured by a visor.

A nod to her London location set closer David Bowie’s Life On Mars saw lights shining across stage projecting stars.

This is a singer-songwriter shining bright, with an extraordinarily accomplished performance tonight. 

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