Review: Katy B and Becky Hill @ Manchester Academy

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Leo Lerner

There are two ways of warming up when in Manchester on a cold Saturday night. One involves curry, and the other standing directly underneath the sub-woofer at the Academy. Who better to spread the heat through her infectious hooks and rhythms than London born Kathleen Anne Brien, better known as Katy B?

Pop’s new it-girl Becky Hill played as the support act; she kicked the night off with exciting material from her upcoming debut album and two of the biggest hits of the last 12 months ‘Gecko (Overdrive)’ and ‘Afterglow’. Playing to her favoured Northern audience, Hill enthused energy with her sassy stage talk and large-scale production, showing huge potential for the future. She left the whole audience smiling and hot with anticipation for the main attraction. (I was able to have a quick chat with her before the show – click here for more!)

A lot of Katy’s hits truly belong on the dancefloors of Europe’s mega-clubs, but it’s a treat to see her perform them live, always with the same voracious energy that she transmits onto her recordings. Exploding onto the stage with ‘Hot Like Fire’ and ‘5 AM’, she instantly set the tone for the rest of the night.

‘Skanking’ was encouraged throughout, especially for the mid set climax in ‘Easy Please Me’. Katy then demonstrated her trans-genre status, taking it down for a few songs; the ever popular ‘Crying for No Reason’, and then ‘Everything’, which she dedicated to her brother who sadly passed away during the summer. The raw emotion was evident here, and it came through in Katy’s incredible voice; how refreshing to find a dance music singer who can actually sing.

Inevitably of course, the pace and the bass picked up once again, and the Academy was rocking in time for the eponymous song which started Katy off on her mission. She thanked everyone for coming, and the thanks were met with rapturous response from the very sweaty crowd.

An hour and a half was not long enough however, and Katy returned for her encore with many fans’ favourites; ‘Perfect Stranger’ and ‘Lights On’. Her request to the lighting crew to actually switch the lights on was a literal reminder of how engrained the song has become on the British clubbing scene. Everyone was singing along and unleashing their best skanks on fellow Katy B fans. It’s worth noting at this point that during the upbeat numbers, Katy was dancing away herself, accompanied by her more-than-able team of four dancers. Indeed, to maintain any vocal clarity at all while pulling some of those shapes is an art in itself, and one which has garnered due respect.

It’s a pleasure to see two young women doing what they love; getting up on stage and leading the way forward, not only in their genres, but in music and performance as a whole. If they continue on this trajectory, expect to hear a lot more from both very soon.