A sunny evening with a light breeze in early September. It had already been a pleasant day in Camden but there was plenty more excitement to look forward to in the lively London borough – US RnB singer Eric Bellinger was in town and performing at the Jazz Café. A cultural hub for the city which has the knack of bringing some of the coolest artists to the capital, that night in the Jazz Café was certainly one I will remember.
The venue was perfect for a night celebrating the best of RnB and Soul music, tables upstairs filled with couples on romantic dates, good vibes and good people. There was hardly a divide between the intimate stage and excited and (of course largely female crowd), fully immersed I was ready to experience the musical talent that was Eric Bellinger.
Headlining with the US star was our very own Keakie family member Emmavie who held it down for UK RnB scene by performing her hits ‘Deeper’ and ‘You Love em.’ Her live band blew the crowd away including moments to remember such as the performance of one of the most skilful drummers I have ever witnessed and the impressive use of the talk box to create a smooth rendition of ‘Pure Imagination’ from the classic film Willy Wonka – well worth the surprise and a classy tribute to late actor Gene Wilder. Emmavie and her band also sent the crowd wild with their jazzy rendition of Rihanna’s ‘Work’, it seems like every remix of that song I hear tops the original. It was the perfect vibe for the intimate setting and the crowd loved it, the music infused you, the bass went through your body; it moved your spirit. One girl next to me whispered ‘Oh My Gosh! I have to follow her on Soundcloud!’ This statement summed up the excitement on the night amongst the audience, it was a night for discovery, enjoyment and pure entertainment.
I myself discovered a new group, RnB duo Dora Martin whose onstage chemistry was unrivalled, the harmonies between female singer Cherri V and male singer Jermaine Riley were pure musical bliss – happy notes dancing in the crowds’ ear were warmly received. It was great to experience the UK RnB showcase in full motion before the full course from the US superstar.
The anticipation for Bellinger grew once the crowd were done being teased by a few short intervals and DJ sets– throwback jams and remixes of classic RnB songs are great for a while but this was not Kisstory, the crowd knew who they came to see and they were now ready. In my view, Eric Bellinger is a hugely underrated artist here in the UK but one with abundance of talent and he actually had a strong following on the night. I was intrigued to experience his music live, knowing him as a great recording artist I was honestly shocked by how fantastic of a live performer he was - his voice was breath-taking.
Making a grand entrance sporting a pristine leather jacket, jewellery, sunglasses and his signature baseball cap, his all - American swagger certainly made you want to hold your girl a little tighter. Greeted by screams Eric Bellinger lapped it up, interacting with the crowd and making one girl’s 2016 by allowing her to feel his abs in front of the excited audience. But what he had in confidence was easily matched by his ability performing his hits ‘Valet,’ ‘Sex with Me’ and ‘I Don’t Want Her’ to the adoring crowd.
He skilfully bridges the gap between Old School RnB and the new school so well. Sampling classics such as Aaliyah and R Kelly’s ‘At Your Best’ in his sensual song ‘Or Nah’ and Montell Jordan’s ‘This is How we Do It’ Eric Bellinger has an appreciation for the legends before him and is ready to modernise their great work for the next generation of RnB fans. During the concert he paid tribute to late RnB Princess Aaliyah by asking fans to put ‘their ones’ up for Aaliyah – a classy touch.
Taking off his leather jacket and showing off his custom made black t-shirt with his initials stylishly etched onto his chest, Bellinger was ready to take the show to the next level. The RnB star was really getting comfortable in London, stating that he needs to come and see his UK fans more often he proceeded to take song requests from the crowd singing each of them masterfully in acapella highlighting his incredible vocal range and amazing falsetto – he perfectly sung snippets from about 15 songs acapella, going from one fans request to another like a bespoke show for each new requester. His passion, his soul, his appeal - it was everything RnB had been missing over the last ten years. Being a Grammy Award Winning songwriter for Chris Brown has meant this man has been overlooked for his own musical talents but it’s time for a true artist to get the recognition he deserves for both his singing and song writing.
During the performance Bellinger gave the London crowd a surprise with an exclusive performance of his track ‘In My Prime’ from his new project which he announced he would be releasing at midnight. The song was a bouncy number from his project ‘Eric B for President’ – available on all streaming platforms right now. After an incredible night there was a lot to soak in but it was definitely one of the best live performances I’ve experienced all year. It’s great to see RnB is back with a bang.
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