It really doesn’t get more impressive than Koko – red velvet walls, tiered balconies and old grandiose theatre feel – could there be a better live venue in London? Well its even better tonight, as they welcome to the stage the incredible and talented Alice Russell.
Opening proceedings tonight is Andreya Triana; a young singer with a rich and tender blues voice, backed up with unassuming accompaniment from drums and guitar, giving her performance the impression of a classic jazz trio. With a voice akin to Amy Winehouse’s in tone and character, she breezes through a set of velvety blues numbers, in a laid-back, relaxed style which perfectly warms up the crowd.
By the time Alice Russell reaches the stage, introduced by her ensemble band dressed in pure white, the building is buzzing with anticipation. Every person present waits with barely contained excitement – and they are not left disappointed as you couldn’t pack a performance with more energy and spirit.
Her band is just outstanding, with drummer, backing singers, two guitarists, a superb brass section and a pianist who looks more like a mad scientist atop a podium. However, it’s worth making special mention of Michael Simmons. Sharing centre stage throughout the show, his presence is as commanding as Russell’s and he compliments her with his gentle and soulful voice, and brings a touch of genius to the show with his violin.
As the set weaves through a range of sounds ranging from soul to ska and rock, songs like ‘Turn and Round’ allow Russell to demonstrate her inner soul diva. Possessing the ability to be gravelly and sweet while at the same time filling the room with gospel power, her voice is quite simply spectacular and on par with such greats as Aretha Franklin and Beyonce. At one point she performs an amazing fast-paced version of ‘Single Ladies’ and the band get the audience clapping along in unison.
Her set includes a fantastic array of original songs and covers, and the pace of the evening is relentless. At one point Russell is picked up and carried off over the shoulder of Simmons. The crowd is left wondering where she is, but a quick wave of applause greets an instrumental version of ‘Thriller’ in tribute to Michael Jackson, and before we know it she’s back on stage having under-gone a complete costume change to perform her classic cover of ‘Seven Nation Army’ by the White Stripes.
At the end of the evening, with the audience simply refusing to leave the venue, the band happily come back on for a long encore, performing an amazing version of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ which far surpasses the original.
Russell has once again proven herself to be a star, capable of both the powerful and the delicately sublime. The pure embodiment of sass and style.
This article was originally written for Spoonfed.co.uk here: http://www.spoonfed.co.uk/spooners/samgould-5043/alice-russell-at-koko-1581/