FKJ at the Hammersmith Apollo
Vincent Fenton, stage name French Kiwi Juice, is undoubtedly a talented man. FKJ (as he tends to be known) is a French artist and multi-instrumentalist, who brought the Hammersmith Apollo everything it sought and more. His set, performed alongside bassist Seth Tackaberry and drummer Arjan Dube, fizzed with tropical excitement from the off. The big tracks, Vibin’ Out, Ylang Ylang and, of course, Tadow (which he saved for a noisily welcomed encore) were greeted with intense enthusiasm; but there was a sense that some had turned up simply to hear these, and attention started to waver as other album fillers had their turn. A magical atmosphere was conjured with the aid of mesmerising projections for some of the mellower songs, among them Ylang Ylang, which brought a meditative calm.
FKJ enthrals through technical mastery in addition to being a musical entertainer. He is an exceptionally gifted live multi-instrumentalist, as comfortable with a guitar as with a keyboard, and most especially on the saxophone: last night he drew roars of delight whenever he picked it up, occasionally tantalising fans by feigning an approach to the instrument before going to exhibit his gifts elsewhere for a while. His introduction of a small company of string players (evidently hired as much for their appearance as their skill) was disappointingly staid, however.
The stage set was a homely one – or as homely as a living room bursting with high-end music tech can be – intended to represent the space FKJ inhabited during the Covid-induced lockdown, when he came up with his latest album, Vincent. He has an accomplished presence on-stage, even when he’s not wielding an instrument or microphone. The set opened and closed with a spot of acted domestic pottering from the artist, convincingly done and bringing a neat symmetry and narrative to the overall performance. In addition, the concert was immaculately produced, though the pursuit of a totally unique aesthetic for each number (in terms of staging, lighting and projections) was a little overzealous; a new tableau every few minutes gave the evening something of an unsettling, whirlwind feel, even if the music itself seldom strayed from excellence.
This is an artist who blooms when performing live. FKJ owns the stage and relishes the inventiveness he can inhabit, bringing a unique take on his best-loved songs to a fortunate audience.
Photos: Ambra Vernuccio
For further information and future events visit FKJ’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Tadow here: