By Jose Oliveira & Rosine Alleva – Rock At Night EU Editors
“THE GOLDEN VOICES” BRITTANY HOWARD – MICHAEL KIWANUKA
BRITTANY HOWARD, lead singer of the Alabama Shakes, absolutely tore down the stage of the Baloise Session in a solo appearance, to promote her last album “JAIME’ dedicated to her sister, who died of cancer. I had the great privilege to meet her before the concert, for a little interview backstage. She was so astonished but delighted to see an American media coming to Switzerland. And when I said I was Portuguese, living in France, coming to Switzerland….she was kind of quite confused!!!
RAN– Here you are on the road to promote a fantastic Tribute to your Sister. With a debut solo work, titled “JAMIE”. Under which circumstances did you decide to take this new direction?
Brittany Howard– I think just being stagnated creatively with the Shakes….Love the Shakes…but it kind of became common, the creativity, the songs, the sounds. No one could really figure out why so I stepped away. Then the process was stepping away and going to travel, new music came, new songs and it was all about me. I knew I had to do this project on my own and explore where the songs were coming from, how it made me feel and how that sounded. That was the beginning…
RAN– Would you still be performing with the ALABAMA SHAKES, after this solo experience?
B.H– I’m not sure yet. I’m a person who just follows creativity and if it comes the time if I wanna work in a group again, if I wanna create with these guys again I think I would have this conversation with them “Do you want to do this again?“ So I don’t know.
RAN– Some songs have a developed sense of wonder and playfulness, even when the subject is heavy, as “GEORGIA”. What’s your feeling?
B.H– I think a song like Georgia comes from a place of childhood. And being a child you kind of have this energy and this innocence and I wanted to write a song that came from that kind of pallet cause I felt that‘s the only way to get my point across to be sensitive and childlike in that way, feel very small, know who I am and what I wanted. Like a kid.
RAN– This first solo work reflects an emotional field, touching our souls. We hear On Gospel in your Voice. Do you feel closer to ROSETTA THARPE or even to REVEREND UTAH SMITH ?
B.H. I feel it in a way they definitely perform from their soul and sensitive being but I also feel very individual on myself too. I can’t say I lean towards anyone I really heard before cause I don’t think I could.
RAN– What are your influences?
B.H– All kinds of influences, it’s hard to say. Everything was my influence, that’s how I learned about music. Pink Floyd was a huge moment in my life, I was fourteen when I first heard them. A friend introduced me to music I never heard before , Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, all that kind of classic live music. It really expanded my mind. And I went to this Prog Rock journey. Every single part of music is my inspiration !
RAN– You’re born in Alabama, from mix / black and white parents….are the minds still so narrow in certain parts of the state about racism, individual freedom?
B.H– Yeah, probably. It seems so.
RAN– Didn’t the 8 years with OBAMA contribute for certain disparities to disappear?
B.H– It’s not that simple where we live. You have the government and then above the government it’s the people with the money, so nothing changes much…
RAN– Tonight, you will play at the BALOISE SESSION! A prestigious Festival. What are your expectations?
B.H– I don’t have any expectations, I wanna have a good time, excited to play with my band again, it’s about 6 days since we played. I’m excited to dance, sing, be myself and see how the crowd reacts really.
RAN– There will be many people from France for your concert tonight…
B.H. Wonderful ! I just hope people won’t stay seated …
RAN– Your guitars on stage are always very “vintage”. What are your favorite ones?
B.H– Right now I like old Japanese guitars, it’s funny cause they’re getting popular again. But I just play them cause they’re cheap and they look cool, sound cool. Now you can’t find cheap ones anymore….I like the old Airline guitars, Indie sound cool, it makes me think in a different way.
I might play Gibson guitar once in a while but it doesn’t get the same character.
RAN– Alabama is always in the spotlight at the Baloise Session….Before each concert
the screen shows “SWEET HOME ALABASEL…”
B.H– That’s funny ! I have to make sure I watch that (Laughs)
RAN– Thank you very much, it was really nice to meet you. Hope you’ll visit France or Portugal.
B.H– Yeah, maybe 2020, can’t wait !
On stage, we saw a great performance. Her musicians line up was so brilliant with the participation of the fantastic Drummer NATE SMITH on this Solo Tour. The Man that everybody wants in his band in NYC. What a Play!!!! BH is now exploring new and unexpected material shining through sonic diversity. Especially powerful when HOWARD’s voice turned into a preacher mode with a lower intonation.
Highlights come from her total dedication to Soul, Rhythm n’ blues and funk influences. A few powerful covers delighted the audience. As the BEATLES “Revolution” or PRINCE “The Breakdown”. She proved to be one of the most dynamic singers and performers on the actual scene. BRITTANY left the stage under deafening chorus of cheers.
The problem is still recurrent and we need more singers like KIWANUKA with the courage to sing songs as “ Black Man in a White World” facing mostly white audiences. With his large African style, his guitar and his green jacket, his entrance on stage attracts immediately attention. His set of 13 songs will turn out to be sublime and emotional all along the show.
His voice plunges us into the Woodstock universe of Richie Havens or even Otis Redding’s melancholy soul attitude. On stage, he almost apologizes for coming on the road without the release of his third album, to be out a few days after his concert here in Basel. He will only sing four songs of this last eponymous album, relying on the best tracks of his previous albums. To the media that have always had the bad habit of comparing him to someone else or fit him in a special box (?), Michael answers on stage:”This album is a kind of challenge. I commit to who I am and I will not have an alter ego, nor become Sasha Fierce or Ziggy Stardust, even if everyone tells me that I have to be this or that thing. I can just be Michael Kiwanuka”. Talking with the audience, we discover that MW stills seems transfixed by his past. Spotted at Adele’s opening act and after three albums, Michael KIWANUKA is promised to a bright future as his studio collaborations with the duo Danger Mouse and Inflo, which turned out to be great.
KIWANUKA began the set with “ One More Night” and my favorite highlights were “ Black Man In a White World” (of course), “Place I Belong”, “ Hero”, “Cold Little Heart”, “You Ain’t The Problem” and the final song “Love and Hate”.
Two beautiful backing vocals Ladies and four great musicians contributed to his compelling voice and emotional honesty, brighting up this Golden Voices Night!!!
“THE CELTIC SONGWRITERS”
Scottish crooner TOM WALKER, was still sporting his traditional beanie on stage, which represents now a personal trade. All the ten day concerts at the Baloise Session were sold out but this one just went sold out a few minutes before the show.
The focus on the music between the crowd and the musicians turned to an intimate sharing. The “Leave A Light On” songwriter-singer, impressed the audience from the start of his set with an amazing stage presence.
He took a delightful pleasure of chatting with the audience, with storytelling and playing his songs with the same passion that drives him since the beginning of his musical adventure. In “Fade Away” he was telling us about his first romantic adventure. “I knew her when I was 14 and our love fall down 5 years later, but it still remains my favorite one! I’m talking about the song”!! (laughs).
With “Just You And I” he took the opposite path. He sayed he lives a perfect happiness for six years with his new girlfriend. “The best thing that could happen to me” he said. The audience cheered all these love confessions.
His set was brilliant supported on stage by four great musicians and the wonderful Laura Oakes on backing vocals. His drummer play (Ali Thynne) was just incredible.
It was a fantastic night celebrating the 25 years of one of the best Irish Bands! SNOW PATROL have been away for seven years.This concert sounded full of nostalgia.
They came back to the road with the three original members. Gary LIGHTBODY as Lead Vocals and acoustic guitar, Nathan CONNOLLY, as electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals and Johnny McDAID on keyboards and backing Vocals. LIGHTBODY, the front man, had announced to come to the road, looking for intimate shows, intimate crowds and trying out songs of their eight album, called “Reworked”. He said “as we’ve been recording the album, we’ve discovered some new things of our old stuff”.
And the package set list of that night was able to show us thirteen reworked songs of the all sixteen played. Their popularity stills carry on and the usual charm of Gary’s limpid voice remains intact.
When the lights went out, difficult to imagine the spark that will follow that night. Gary Lightbody, Nathan Connolly and Johnny McDaid entered the stage and begun a moment suspended in time for the most impatient fans.
They gave their fans what was expected: Memories, fun and certain of spending a great evening.
A perfect communion settled and the public knew all the lyrics. A moment of memorable grace! After all these years, SNOW PATROL keeps the same qualities that are attributed to an old Porto wine: they become better! The songs on stage, do not age much.
High moments, so much awaited, came with songs as “ Empress”, “Set The Fire”, Life On Earth”, “Heal Me”, “Crack The Shutters” and not far from the recall, the wonderful “Chasing Cars”. The great finale was the essential “Just Say Yes”, taken from their most well-known album “Up To Know”.
No doubt, SNOW PATROL has still a power ability to wrap an audience.
“Re worked “ was just released on November 8.
“ROCK ON AND OFF”
What a strange name for a Norway’s Band. It’s a Portuguese reference to early mornings! Their melancholic music has nothing to do with the traditional low sunshine rising in the Nordic countries. After SNOW PATROL, MADRUGADA in BALOISE SESSION it sounds like a surprising comeback and has sparked a wave of great joy among Swiss fans. They had been out of the scene, the last ten years after the death of their guitar player, Robert Buras in 2008.
The soulful opener “Vocals” was chosen for a great presentation of the entire “Industry Silence” album. Yelling guitars appear on “Belladonna” song. Highlight moment when Sivert grabbed the acoustic guitar into “ Strange Colour Blue” and the stage came much more romantic been bathed in blue light. The photographers also really appreciated. The new guitar musicians for this re-union Tour, Cato Thomassen and Christer Knutsen were precious and this last one created an emotional feeling on the slide-guitar on “Shine”. People did not spare the applause for other highlights moments as “ Salt”, “Norwegian Hammerworks” and “Quite Emotional”.
Although the audience was quite reserved for a farewell evening of a great Swiss Hard Rock band (KROKUS), MADRUGADA conquered the public and left an excellent impression for the rest of their musical way.
The 34th edition of the Basel music festival closed with the beginning of the Farewell Tour of the most representative Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Swiss band, KROKUS. They enjoyed great success in North America during the 1980s. Another strange name for a Band? Yes, a little but Krokus is German for crocus, a flower common throughout Europe. And as in the middle of the word we have “roc us’, the band’s name was found! 2 weeks before the festival, we had a phone interview with Krokus – Chris Von Rohr.
After a long career of 44 years sharing stage, studios with some consequent family sacrifices, the time has come to say Goodbye! Really? Are will they going to take the same farewell experience as SCORPIONS? It is always difficult to give up a gold mine! Especially when they announce to our lovely Rosine Alleva, during an interview in Basel, that there is still a planned USA tour!!!! So wait and see. It was the first time I saw KROKUS on stage and the first thing that came to my mind when I heard his singer was the resemblance of his vocal tone with AC / DC’s Bon Scott. Later, I learned that Marc Storace has been pointed to replace Bon Scott the AC/DC singer who died in 1980, but Marc chose to stay with the Band.
This festive evening was a privileged moment for once again to sway most of the hits that contributed to the renown of the Swiss band. The audience was hanging on to every lyric he sang and every note they play.
Bandannas and long hair, everything was there. Marshall amps mountain was there to reassure the heavy and loud sound.
Their set list transported us, for a moment to the moments of carefreeness and freedom of the 70s and 80s. It was a fantastic night before they‘ll play in ZURICH next December.
The next edition of the Baloise Session will take place from 23 October to 12 November 2020.
I started to dream that Beatrice STIRNIMANN and her wonderful team will present BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN next year. It seems that the BOSS loves Switzerland and the intimate moods ….
Many thanks to all the BALOISE SESSION Team for another great time and their precious help! Special thanks to Beatrice Stirnimann, Lena Knoblich, Dominik Plüss.
See you again next year!
I was born in Portugal and lived the Sixties exploring the great UK Rock magazines: "The New Musical Express" and "Melody Maker". Ray Charles and Pat Boone were my father’s fav. I became “The Great Pretender”. Cliff Richard was our Elvis Presley. As a beach boy, with my first guitar, I met a beautiful French girl on the beach! It was the Summer of 69!! We got married and rock music was our dowry. In France, I became a Wine Genetic Research Scientist. One of my works contributed to the decoding of the genome of the vine! As a rock journalist, I’ve worked twenty years for the Portuguese and Brazilian Rock Press. I ‘ve interviewed so many great artists. Then, one day I met FRANK ZAPPA! I got into trouble for introducing my wife to "Uncle Meat"!
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- MAGIC, once more, for the 34th BALOISE SESSION – Part 2 - November 25, 2019