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Cody ChesnuTT – 23rd July, Islington Assembly Hall

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A soulful performance, a sweaty venue, and an audience of enthused dancers, One Little Indian’s Cody ChesnuTT diffused his energy in one of Islington’s finer gig settings. Amidst the dirty heatwave in Central London, it was clear that the crowd were not going to let this get to them at this toe-tapping upbeat, theatrical performance.

Born in 1968, he is considered a great American R&B and neo soul singer, heralding from Georgia. With a history and background that lends itself to Death Row Records and later Hollywood Records (which him and his band were kicked out of), he actually recorded his momentous record, The Headphone Masterpiece, on a four-track cassette-recorder in his bedroom. The Roots did propel his musical career somewhat with their cover of his track The Seed (obviously not on his set tonight) and inclusion of his vocals and guitar, but other than this he was pretty much considered a raw singer-songwriter with the struggle to hit the mainstream.

Osmosis of energy seeping into the crowd and European session band, there was only one drawback to this performance. Overtly hammy, dramatic presences can sometimes attempt to pull you in so much that it can have the opposite effect. Seemingly contrived, this contrived energy repelled me from enjoying this gig as much as I could have done. The talent was clearly present, perhaps at times more so from the band, than Cody himself, as we don’t get a full sense of his vocal capability and but the groove, the funk and the stage presence was all there.

There is also a sense of versatility with this artist, as he begins his set with a track that has more riffs than percussion, giving his audience a false sense of rock and roll before he begins to entertain with his more soulful and contemporary tracks, Let’s Go POP and Under The Spell of a Handout. These definitely had more appeal with the fans as they were struggling to keep their feet still despite the sweat dripping from the venue in the summer heatwave.

For the first time in over a decade Cody performed to his fans, mostly from the 2012 album Landing On A Hundred but it also from the landmark album, The Headphone Masterpiece, which was originally released in 2002. Socially conscious and re-tooled, Cody returns in a high-energy fuelled fashion, keen to spread this enthusiasm, which he effectually sweeps into the crowd, evident from their movement.

With a band that seem also fuelled from the vigour that ChesnuTT sets off, and their reflexes lightning-fast on Cody’s cues, it is impossible not to be entertained by his shows. Amidst a lovely crowd of die-hard fans, in a gorgeous Islington location, there is little much to complain about. For a musician with his degree of hype surrounding I must admit I did expect a little more, particularly on the vocals.

Whether it’s a compulsion to project loudly to compensate for this inability to penetrate to mainstream or simply his persona as a musician, I still think that we would all benefit from a more organic, and humble stage presence, despite this energy fuelling around the room.

Free MP3 of Gunpowder on the Letter is available via itunes:

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.