Noisettes (Interview & Review)

 Noisettes @ O2 Academy, Monday 12th November, 7pm

w/ Josephine Oniyama, Marques Toliver

The Noisettes, that band you know from their song ‘Don’t Forget the Rhythm (Go Baby Go)’, have been named “the best live band in the UK” by a leading broadsheet newspaper. So fair to say, never having seen them live before, I had high hopes for their performance at the O2 Academy Oxford. In anticipation, the crowd was a genuine mix of people – not just students, but a lot of married couples too. The first support act, the wonderfully soulful-voiced Josephine Oniyama, had everyone completely in her thrall, with her acoustic, melodious songs, and her infectious grin. After a lengthy pause, Marques Toliver – the second support act – came on with a violin and a band. Even though being a pop violinist/vocalist means being part of an extremely niche category, Toliver was genuinely funny and fresh. His music was a bit livelier than Josephine’s – he started with a cover of Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’ that worked surprisingly well – and got people energised and ready for the Noisettes, who emerged shortly after.

The duo, consisting of Shingai Shoniwa on vocals and Dan Smith on guitar, emerged into the dim lights, bursting into new single ‘I Want You Back’ from their recently released album Contact. Dressed in something vaguely resembling a hanging basket, Shoniwa was dressed as exuberantly as she performed, if that’s possible. Accompanied on stage by a band and two backing singers, the Noisettes ran through many songs without a pause, getting through the anthem that is ‘Don’t Forget the Rhythm’ pretty early on, where Shoniwa managed to get everyone participating.

On ‘Let the Music Play’, Shingai left for a costume change, leaving Smith to play the guitar with his teeth, as you do. When Shingai reappeared she soon whipped up the crowd to join in with ‘That Girl’, ‘Never Forget You’, and ‘Wild Young Hearts’. Participation was the name of the game – there was always a line to sing or a beat to clap. The audience couldn’t hope to match the energy found onstage, where the backing singers seemed to have a fully choreographed dance to every song, and Shoniwa (who by this stage was dancing barefoot on a drum) was, amazingly, still singing with greater power than many artists can boast ordinarily. Though some would disagree that the Noisettes are “the best live band in the UK”, even the biggest critics would struggle to deny the entertainment and energy that they bring to their performances.

Richard Stone


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