Live Review: All Saints – Thursday 13th October – Brixton Academy, London, UK
Close to 20 years on from erupting onto the worlds pop stage with their self-titled debut record, All Saints – Shaznay Lewis, Melanie Blatt and sisters Natalie and Nicole Appleton – released their first album of all new material, the irrepressible collection, Red Flag in April of this year. While the record didn’t mark the girls first foray into comeback terrain, having released the admittedly underwhelming Studio 1 in 2006, the bands latest collection signaled a solid return to heyday form from one of the defining girl groups, and acts, of the 90’s. Singles One Strike, If This Is A War and latest album highlight, One Woman Man have helped construct the foursome a truly remarkable ladder back into the mainstream pop market and an opportunity to flex their touring skills once again.
From being incredibly low-key for the last decade, The Never Ever quartet have been incredibly busy promoting Red Flag since its release earlier this year and have been on the road enjoying a hugely successful national tour of the UK; their first headlining tour in 15 years. Having wowed the fans at shows in Newcastle, Glasgow, Manchester, Bournemouth and Liverpool in the preceding week, it was London’s turn last night as All Saints made Brixton Academy their stomping ground for one of the most solid pop sets we have heard in some time.
The set for the night was a mixture of old classics, new numbers, covers and solo highlights from the RnB/pop foursome with the groups new album and debut record being the focal points for the nights entertainment. Appropriately opening with debut single I Know Where It’s At, the sold out crowd erupted as the 90’s pop icons emerged from side stage to perform one of the groups most recognizable hits. After an impressive performance of new number Puppet on a String and Studio 1 single Rock Steady, Black Coffee – taken from the bands 2000 sophomore album – provided the set with an early highlight and one that had the crowd up on their feet in the circle section and dancing along with the band who performed the track with nostalgic precision.
While the back to back performances of Ratchet Behavior and a tribal influenced Red Flag fell a little flat, further newbies dotted the set with Summer Rain and a gorgeously performed Who Hurt Who; delivered as a duet between Melanie and Natalie who carried the song with a somber and sensitive tone around Shaznay and Nicole’s breathy backing vocals.
Huddled around one of the groups backing band members who provided the quartet with a beat on a drum, a complimenting sidestep from All Saint’s material into the girls solo work was a welcome intermission between the non-stop hits with Melanie leading the way with her most successful solo single, Twentyfourseven. Shaznay dished up her own debut solo beauty with Never Felt Like This Before but it was Natalie’s moment to shine with a stellar performance of Don’t Worry, the second single release by Appleton; her and sister Nicole’s post All Saint’s sister project back in 2003.
As the girls mastered the new songs, with incredible live renditions of One Strike during the two track encore and new single One Woman Man, an inclusion quite easily one of the best numbers produced by the band in the last 20 years, the night was dominated by the groups classics.
An unexpected appearance of debut album ballad War of Nerves sat beautifully alongside recent single If This Is A War while early covers of Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Under The Bridge and Patti Labelle’s Lady Marmalade gave the energized crowd plenty of opportunity to dance. Debut album hit Bootie Call was also given a rapturous applause as the track made its appearance mid-set.
The band appeared a very tight knit unit throughout the 19 song set as they gyrated around the misty Brixton Academy stage, passing each other with smiles and frequently stealing a hug or supportive arm gesture from one another. Following their performance of Lady Marmalade, Blatt was awarded with a kiss from Shaznay and Nicole while Natalie went in for the hardcore affection; grabbing Blatt and giving her a 10 second snog to a soundtrack of crowd applause.
The night was without doubt owned by two of the groups most successful hits. Closing the main set, power-ballad Never Ever had the crowd holding phones in the air and singing along to every note delivered by the iconic 90’s girl-group while the dance-tinged Pure Shores capped the night of old hits and new classics off with electro-pop grandeur.
The fans certainly came to the show for nostalgia but got a whole lot more from the show by time the curtain fell on the evening. A truly stellar vocal and visual performance and a dream set-list from one of the defining acts of 90’s British pop!
I Know Where It’s At
Puppet on a String
This Is a War
War of Nerves
One Woman Man
Who Hurt Who
Solo section: Twentyfourseven / Never Felt Like This Before / Don’t Worry
Under the Bridge