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Katy B Live: Down And Dirty With The Dubstep Princess

by Laurence Ettridge
2 November 2011

The Mercury prize-nominated artist hits the south-coast and gets Brighton bouncing with drum n' bass drops and some dirty dancing...

It’s been a big year for 22-year-old Katy B. Emerging in 2010 initially as a voice of the dubstep scene she has crafted her own sound by encompassing a variety of dance music which made up her debut album On A Mission. The album was nominated for a Mercury Prize and she has spent the year playing a variety of awards shows and festivals – including a set at Glastonbury that was so popular that the tent was almost completely inaccessible due to masses of people. Tonight in Brighton she is nearing the end of her own headline UK tour and giving the material a raucous live outing.

Transferring dance music to a live setting has the potential to be a problematic feat to overcome but one that Katy has managed with ease. Backed by a tight band with a particularly impressive horn section she gets things underway in Brighton with Broken Record, which is greeted with a lively welcoming by this young audience. Katy and the band were getting into the Halloween spirit as she donned a black dress and witch’s hat while her MC was kitted out in a full skeleton costume complete with monster mask. There’s little pause for breath in the opening moments of the gig as Katy moves on to current single Movement. Katy proclaimed to the Brighton crowd that she doesn’t want tonight to be like a concert she wants it to be like a rave. The crowd are more than happy to oblige as the third of six singles performed tonight, Easy Please Me, is followed by a sudden drum n bass drop which provokes some extremely sweaty looking bouncing from the crowd.

The set goes on to draw from a few of the calmer moments from the album, with Katy sitting down to lead us through Power On Me and forbidding any “screwed up faces and dirty dubstep” style dancing for the “sexy” songs from the album – Hard to Get and Why You Always Here. The slightly more relaxed segment of the performance allows the two very able backing singers to also showcase their talents.

It is pleasing to see that she has stepped out of the obscurity of “that voice on a club tune” to making a name for herself in her own right. A task that was rarely achieved by any of the female singers who made 90’s garage tracks so memorable.

The most noticeable appeal of Katy B is that there are two clear sides to her – the side that emerged from that dubstep scene with her Magnetic Man collaborations – and also the side that flirts with being a proper pop star. First and foremost what’s great to see is that she is nothing like a conventional pop star. There’s no pretentious routine or dance moves – she dances like your average girl in a club and seems to become more lively in her stage manner by feeding off the adulation of the crowd rather than anything false or exaggerated. You get a lovely feeling of sincerity, which is often lacking in your typical, image-obsessed pop star. With regard to the dance roots of Katy it is pleasing to see that she has stepped out of the obscurity of “that voice on a club tune” to making a name for herself in her own right. A task that was rarely achieved by any of the female singers who made 90’s garage tracks so memorable. Her love for club music is stressed through most of lyrics on the album and is highlighted tonight with a mid-set cover of Show Me Love. It’ll be interesting to see whether she manages to maintain the balance when she comes to release her second album or has to conform to fully-fledged pop star.

For the remainder of tonight’s set a carefully selected crescendo of tracks are used effectively to round up the show. Perfect Stranger, which features on both the Magnetic Man album and her own, gets the night back onto a raving vibe after the slower period of the set. She then draws on another Magnetic Man track Crossover, which doesn’t make an appearance on On A Mission, but she dedicates to any Magnetic Man fans that might be in the building. Then for her “last song” (wink wink) she opts for Katy On A Mission. Her breakthrough debut single is a fantastic reminder of the rapid rise she has enjoyed, it’s hard to believe it has been a mere 14 months since it was released.

Then a brief exit from the stage allows her MC to hype up the crowd in preparation to draw the Halloween gig to a rousing finish. Naturally Lights On is the closer and another fine thing to see is that Katy doesn’t seem bored of playing it live yet – a cracking end to a first-rate show where it seems that performer and audience alike had an equally enjoyable time.

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