Words by Olivia Haughton
I’ve never seen KOKO so packed. That’s possibly because I’ve only been there a couple of times, but let’s ignore that for now and focus on the point at hand: it really was rammed. We were all there to see two artists, successful as individuals and now collaborating as a dynamic duo. I’m talking about Quantic and Alice Russell.
This gutsy soulster and quirky musician, DJ and producer are no strangers to one another, having worked on several projects together in the past decade. This, their first exclusive collaboration, is driven by the release of Look Around the Corner, a fully-charged album with no shortage of hard-hitting soul and bluesy numbers.
Russell’s onstage charisma is as sparkly as her glittered top and her personality as big as her voice. And this is a voice that has been compared to the likes of Amy Winehouse and Adele, since it emerged in 2004 with her debut album, Under The Munka Moon. Showing her true soul-sister colours, Russell wooed the crowd with her dance moves and wowed us with belters like ‘Pushing On’ and ‘Su Suzy.’
Quantic, aka Will Holland, left the talking to Russell and concentrated on channelling melodies through his fingertips, which skipped over the keys of the accordion and plucked at the strings of a guitar. Holland’s superb playing, backed by his band, Combo Bárbaro, complemented the fullness of Russell’s voice and provided just a hint of a Latin undercurrent beneath the funk and soul vibe.
Holland came into his own playing accordion in the 80s classic ‘Golden Brown,’ transporting us to a little French bistro in the backstreets of Paris (one with an excellent taste in live music, of course). Standout ‘Magdalena’ made an impression with smokey vocals while ‘Road To Islay’ lent a party vibe to the set. ‘Simmer Down’ can only described as sexy and seductive thanks to Russell’s sensuous delivery, Holland’s epic guitar playing and the inspired addition of Mike Simmonds on mandolin.
Sadly KOKO’s sound system left a little to be desired with its bottom-heavy bias and Holland’s presence was, if anything, a little too understated. We heard his brilliant playing, but I wanted to see him step out of the shadows for a little longer. The shining star of the night was undoubtedly Alice Russell and her dazzling voice, no, personality, no, top, no, everything…