No question, Natalie Williams is one of London’s great vocalists right now. There’s power, but intimacy, colour and subtlety too; dexterity and control that has you glowing with admiration; and a sense of fun, warmth and in-the-moment happiness that simply makes you feel grand. I didn’t turn around to see, but I’m sure there was a sea of smiling faces behind me reflecting back the positive energy coming from the stage.
To showcase that glorious voice, the set-list was a mix of strong originals and eclectic covers. Natalie has a delicious way with a song and can turn a tune inside-out – as with the songs by Sting, Stevie and the couple of Beatles numbers, that made me think of Kurt Elling’s re-workings of the popular canon. As with Elling, there’s something absolutely thrilling about hearing someone with so much facility and musicality at their disposal; it can bring something entirely new to a well-worn song. Originals were heartfelt and memorable – ‘Where You Are’, dedicated to the memory of Natalie’s grandmother, was a stand-out (“I’ve polished an apple for you…”). Set closer ‘Grace’ (yes, Jeff Buckley) was storming and sublime.
Natalie was partnered by a sparky, close-knit band – Phil Peskett keys, Al Cherry guitar (scorching solos), Chris Higginbottom drums and Rob Mullarkey bass (and uke bass!). We even got to find out some inside-information about our singer – she was on stage with her fiancé, she loves cooking and she speaks Hungarian!
Some of the night’s songs told of things we might look to for inspiration or a sense of release – the self-penned ‘Drive’ and ‘Start Walking’ or the fantastic cover of Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘Lady Day and John Coltrane’. Listening to Natalie Williams can do it too – I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling like I was flying high above that regenerated Kings Cross skyline.