Yola at Koko
Where to begin? Returning to London for her first show at Koko London, Yola blew away the audience with every breath she took. An incomparable wonder, the nine-time Grammy-nominated artist wowed audiences with her eclectic mix of original songs and covers of artists such as Elton John, Aretha Franklin and Anita Baker.
In her Instagram biography, Yola describes herself as “musically genre fluid”, and this is clear both in the songs she chooses to showcase and the diversity of her audience. From country tunes like Be My Friend and Shady Grove to the upbeat funk styling of Dancing away in Tears, Yola exhibited her versatility as an artist and her mastery of most, if not all, musical genres.
She began the night with the opener from her new album, Barely Alive, which was a brilliant way to start. It showed off her flawless vocals that moved from a clear, crisp tone, full of emotion, to a raspy, Tina Turner-esque belt, proving that her range is one not to be taken lightly. This was followed by Starlight, a song that she joked was “a sex-positive song for hoochy”. This type of humorous candour was a frequent feature of the performance, and it was refreshing to have an artist unafraid to be her true self on stage. Yola’s personality only enhanced the beauty of her music and made those less familiar with her work want to hear more.
The next offering was Now You’re Here, which demonstrated her beautiful voice so expertly. It made the audience feel a nostalgia that they couldn’t quite pinpoint, but almost every person was on their feet singing along where they could, and eager to hear more of what this singer had in store.
A lot of the time, the set plays a big part in an artist’s concert. However, for Yola, the minimalist curtain and changing background colour were all that was necessary. Her voice held the audience captive, and the close-knit, breathtaking harmonies with her band meant that the music was very much the focus. This was especially true for her vocal runs in Hold On – a song that has such an uplifting and empowering message for all: “Hold on to the things that you love, show me who it is you are, and never let the feeling go – let it show.” She is the personification of the phrase “it is always better to listen live”. Of course, her studio recordings are fantastic in themselves, but there is another level to her live performance that makes her one not to be missed.
Lastly, her covers of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John, Sweet Love by Anita Baker, and Day Dreaming by Aretha Franklin were such a pleasant surprise for the audience, and wowed all who listened. Many times, covers don’t hold a candle to the original, however, in Yola’s case, her unique take on each of these meant none of the greatness was lost, simply added to.
Yola will go down in history as one of the greats, not only because of her awe-inspiring voice and incredible instrumental talents, but also for the example she sets not to be limited to one type of music – as an artist, or as a listener. The music you love need not be restricted to one type, and Yola embodies this in her performance, through and through.
Photos: Rémy Bourdeau
For further information and future events visit Yola’s website here.
Watch the video for the single 20/20 here: