Wednesday, 2 April 2014

T.K.O...Justin Timberlake and The Tennessee Kids @The O2 arena, London

London 20.15. Showtime 20.30. 
With 15 minutes before showtime, Justin Timberlake's Manager announces that with regret, Justin Timberlake and The Tennessee Kids must cancel the show due to a throat problem. Tom Jones is promised as the replacement.
April Fool's Day! Although it could have been credible for some as the audience went wild after spotting Kylie Minogue and The Voice contestant Jamie Johnson.

The experience begins with mechanical graphics and digital numbers, a real vision of things to come. First Song? 'Pusher Love' performed right into the breakdown goes down a storm. 
The set list goes on to incorporate tracks from 'Justified' and 'FutureSex/LoveSounds' in between  several tracks from The 20/20 Experience such as 'TKO', latest release, 'Not a Bad Thing' and 'Murder.'

Boy did he kill it!

Hours of dancing and singing, thanks to opting for no support act, amazing lighting and graphics, and a performance of one of my favourite songs from The 20/20 Experience Part 1, 'Let The Groove Get in'. Many of us on level 1, centrally furthest from the stage, Block 106, got an even better view of JT as the stage glided slowly across the audience during this song. 

 'Everybody get down!' Just kiddin'. 

I had done a little homework and knew that something like this might go down.

Not only did JT and the dancers move across the new stage freely, he also took to sitting on either end, legs dangling while singing. Talk about trying to reach your fans!
But the technical aspects don't stop there. Clearly 'down to go to that level', (last reference to 'Murder', I promise but it's such a good jam) fans watched stairs unfold, allowing JT to take centre stage but also flatten out to include the bar as a walking platform. Time for a quick drink and mingling with fans.

Justin Timberlake performs again tonight at The O2 and in June. I would love to go again. No doubt tickets are gone but at least I've been there and got the tshirt....and mug....and keyring...and programme. What?

If you ever get the chance to see Mr JT live, do it! You'll be left dizzy by his footwork and totally knocked out by his voice.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Fearless for Art...Jazmine Sullivan @ Koko, Camden

Last night Jazmine Sullivan  took to a London stage, for her first gig in almost 10 years, courtesy of Soulgigs. If you've been following twitter @thellondonista, you'll know I've been rather excited about this gig and with reason!

Opening the show from backstage at Koko, Jazmine had the audience screaming with anticipation as she sang 'Famous' with full band and 2 backing singers. 
The set also included popular favourites, 'Bust Your Windows', 'In Love with Another Man' and encore song, 'Need U bad'.  

There was also a rendition of Daft Punk and Pharrell's,' Get Lucky', after Jazmine admitted to being single and finding refuge and fun in music. She threw some shapes on stage with her backing singers and delivered vocal acrobatics to showcase an amazing range and a scatting ability to leave you with your mouth open. 

Atlantan Singer and Musician Marian Mereba (left) also introduced herself to London for the first time last night and her track, 'Go to London', implies it's clearly something she has always wanted to do. She has an incredible voice. She can throw in the odd rap à la Lauryn Hill,  she plays guitar and harmonica and she does a wonderful cover of Rihanna's Man Down. 

Other support artist Cleo Sol  blew everyone away with her smooth voice and her mixed heritage influences. Check out her soundcloud for free downloads.

In between artists, FriskyDJ and Milktray kept the audience educated with a history lesson of good ol' back in the day r'n'b. They took us back to a time of walkmans not ipods, Opal Fruit not Starburst and BT Phoneboxes with a 10p calling charge. 

But they soon turned comedians or you could say poets, describing one guy as wrapping himself around his girl 'like a roti'. They had people on the floor in stitches, as I'm sure they did when they played 'Candy'. Honestly, it should be illegal to play that jam in crowded multi-level venues. Let's just hope no one turned down the stairs. Doh!

Later on during her set, Jazmine Sullivan openly admitted that her time away had been related to issues of image and confidence, knocked by an abusive relationship, to which the audience shouted, 'F*** him!' and,'You look amazing!', which she did.  

Highlighting her feminine curves, she wore a black dress with cleavage on show, thigh high split and ankle strap skyscraper heels adorned with that big curly hair.

Her story, however, is a reminder of how much of herself she puts into her music, citing that she now appreciates that every part of her is a 'work of art' in new song, 'Masterpiece'. Watch out for it on the third album. Can't wait!!!!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Chillin' at ICEBAR

On an extremely windy Saturday night, there is only one thing worth doing, right? Head to ICEBAR?!
I know, I know, it's crazy to go from cold to freezing (-5º to be precise) but what cooler place for a chilled out evening with friends? And let's face it, you still eat ice cream and to some extent enjoy it more in those colder months.

Just after the main entrance on Heddon Street, we are given a large poncho style coat with large black gloves attached, followed by a ticket entitling us to one free drink at THE icebar. Prepped and ready to explore, only an automatic door separates the main bar from the man made icebox. Going towards the door, I have a Stars in Their Eyes moment ('Tonight Matthew I'm going to be...') and before you know it, in the words of Foreigner, 'the door is closing, you are leaving the world behind' and the words, 'This is so cool!' will have left your soon-to-be quivering lips.
In the ice room, there's a chair made of ice, drinks are being served in ice glasses and of course these are served on the icebar. I can't help but wonder if the barman is warm enough but I guess he probably can't feel the difference anymore. 
I opt for a cocktail called Art Deco, including Absolut blue vodka, kiwi puree and orange juice but as I reach for the glass, I soon realise that my own leopard print gloves just aren't cutting the chill and I finally grab the ones attached to my coat. Attempting to put them on, it becomes apparent that my right glove is on my left side and vice versa but it's too cold to even try to rectify what seems to be a manufacturing error so I cross the gloves over and grab my drink. Thankfully, my chance of slipping and falling head first have been reduced by the sticky floor and the fact that there is a time limit due to popular demand. No time for dignified sipping on that ice-hugged drink then.
Marching orders are soon given and a few quick slurps later, we find ourselves back in the main bar, where the chilled our vibe extends as far as the decor and dress code. Almost anything goes, even nice trainers but no trackkie bottoms

So while the below zero adventure may have been short lived , I can definitely say that ICEBAR is worth seeing, especially if you need somewhere to cool down in the summer. Fingers crossed we get one!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Lunch at the 805

Hi Londonistas! 

 It has been a while since we had a catch up. What fun things are you finding to do in London while the weather is bleurgh? 

The grey skies and soggy umbrellas might not be so inspiring but here is a post that might brighten things up! So after months and months of deliberating, organising and reorganising, me and the girls decided to FINALLY arrange lunch at what has got to be South London's most popular Nigerian restaurant.

805, in the middle of the Old Kent Road has been one of the cornerstones of African London's dining scene for years now. And although I have actually eaten there a couple of times before, I wanted to introduce my Spanish friend to their legendary tilapia. 

We called some of the other members of our dining gang, and voila! We were all sat around a table in the restaurant last Wednesday afternoon. First things first, if you are a driver, and are worried about the red route and 'no parking' signs in the area, you needn't worry.

Free Parking. Yipee!
The interior of the restaurant is very light, and clean - pleasant enough. However, apart from the few paintings sporadically placed on the walls, there is nothing about the interior that screams AFRICA! 

The maiter d' was nice. We were greeted at the door, and asked where we wanted to sit. However, the one other waitress who was waiting on five or six other tables, seemed lethargic and after twenty minutes of sitting down without being offered so much as a glass of water, one of the girls had to approach to ask if we could order drinks!

Anyway, service aside, the food was incredible. Once we had ordered, the food didn't take too long to arrive. My plate looked like this.

Mmm... Croaker fish, fried plantain and salad with a chilli sauce!!
I LOVE chilli and spice, and all things nice - which is very typical of Nigerian cuisine. But for my poor friends who asked for the mild option, it seemed the restaurant only offered spicy and spicier. It seemed that 'mild' is a concept unbeknownst to the chef at 805, because even the accompanying sauce labelled as 'mild' burnt the roof of their mouth. 

The fried plantain was perfect though. It was tasty and ripe enough without being too greasy. Also, the prices are excellent, for the amount of food you actually get. It is a shame though that during the three to four hours we sat and talked, after eating, we were not offered the opportunity to order more drinks. And although there were about four or so items on the desert menu, the only thing available was ice-cream...hmmm

A sneak peek at the menu!
Altogether, it was an enjoyable afternoon. Service might need a bit of polishing but the food is amazing. I do recommend spice junkies to visit the 805.

Monday, 9 December 2013

On a MEATmission

As a late birthday treat, my cousins arrange for us to head to The Breakfast Club just off Liverpool Street. The reputation of this place precedes it and so does the queue! What else could I expect on the weekend? With time against us, we decide to take a walk through what feels like a large chunk of the East London, taking note of changes in the Shoreditch area and building up quite an appetite. After a stroll down Great Eastern street, a few more crossings and side streets later, with the aroma of chips lingering in the wind, we reach our destination. 
We arrive at a place called MEATmission. 'We're standing infront of a restaurant?!', I ask myself, as I look for signs of life and alas! A couple exit, holding the door open into the darkness...

The atmosphere is soon lightened by the front of house who directs us to our raised American style diner bench, and I begin to reflect on my surroundings; there are faux stained glass images, hymn boards used for food challenges (think Man v Food) and my mind automatically assigns Vince Kidd's Sick Love as the theme tune to the restaurant because they both twist religious elements out of their established context into a stranger one. However, this place really takes it to church. Even the menu resembles a simple Mass leaflet. And though my cousin jokes that they clearly spent a lot of money on it (not), I soon realise there is nothing basic about the food.

Keeping with the pseudo-religious theme, the menu is divided into sacraments: Baptism, Communion, Comfirmation and Last Rites. By this stage I'm already craving chips so I decide to choose chips from the Baptism section but this place doesn't just do chips. Well actually, according to the menu, they do 'fries (not chips)' but you can opt for plain, chilli cheese or gravy.

In the end I opt for the normal version to balance out my Dead Hippie burger, a burger with two beef patties, pickles, onions, lettuce and a sauce of the same name. I ask for my patties to be cremated aka well done. I also ask for the Black Cow.  It's not what you think. In fact I really must praise the service. Staff are really friendly, welcoming and always on hand. No rude finger snapping required. The 'Black cow' is in fact a Coke float and yummy it was. Who said vanilla ice cream was bland?

As for the food itself,  I half expect it to arrive in a font or something but it's served on a tray between the three of us. It would have been nice to have my own tray or plate but who cares? When I notice that each table has an 'everyone tuck in' policy, by which I mean bottles of sauce and proper kitchen roll, I realise you just gotta get in there.

I must say that I am partial to a burger and although it did feel like I had eaten dessert before lunch (coke float before burger might not have been the best idea!), I thoroughly enjoyed the meal. The burgers on the menu don't seem enormous but they are quite filling and while this restaurant is clearly food heaven to a devout burger lover, vegetarian options exist too!
Ending up here was a blessing in disguise. Meat Mission, you saved us!

MEATmission, 15 Hoxton Market, London

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Ben L'Oncle Soul at Scala!

Hi Londonistas! I think we can all agree that one is never at a loss for things to do in London Town. One thing you can expect on The Leaping Londonista is suggestions and features on activites you can busy yourself with in all parts of our city. One such event that I attended on Wednesday night was a gig by Ben L'Oncle Soul, who is to me one of the best contemporary soul artists France has to offer. (Before you kill me, I'm just expressing personal opinion!) The venue was Scala in Kings Cross, which is befitting for a French artist me thinks. The chill in the air was more than crisp and had me thinking I was in an arctic container. Lol! So you can imagine my grin when I saw that the queue to get in wasn't too long. 

 Ben L'Oncle Soul's support act was a Senegalese singer, who introduced himself to us as Father Freddy. I welcomed Father Freddy with some apprehension. After all, do we not all dutifully wait for supporting acts to come and go, so we can see the real deal? The artist we have actually paid our £££s to see? My cynicism increased when Father Freddy walked onto the stage, banging a walking stick on the floor with every step, with a guitar strapped to his chest(or was it his back?) and locks tumbling out of a bowler hat. Can this get any more gimmicky? I'm thinking by this point. To cut a long story short, Father Freddy pleasantly surprised me. His voice is amazing, and he did a good job at engaging the audience. I would describe his style as soulful folk music. (Sorry for the compartmentalisation but it's the best way I can describe it). He sang songs such as Reality and Child's Play and even took us though a soulful rendition of Aloe Blacc's I Need a Dollar. He had me believing that he would actually sing until someone threw a dollar his way! By the end of his set, I was converted. I must say though, that I didn't realise that his name was actually Faada Freddy until I was given this small card by the beautiful singer himself, at the end of the event.

Faada Freddy's album is entitled Gospel Journey and you can listen to a few of his tracks here.

By 9pm Faada Freddy, had me sufficiently riled up and ready for Mr. Soul himself. So you can imagine my excitement when finally at 9.10pm Ben L'Oncle Soul swaggers onto stage, with the Monophonics and two very palatable backing singers. By this time the floor had totally disappeared, and from where I was standing, on a kind of raised balcony, all I could see was a carpet of heads. 

Ben L'Oncle Soul's childlike excitement was so obvious in the way he jumped and danced all over the stage without it making an iota of difference to his voice! He sang songs like Yes I do, and Walk the Line, a track featuring on his next album of the same name. I wish I could talk about how much I sang my little heart out, but I must admit that although I've owned Ben L'Oncle Soul's self entitled album since 2010 I'm still not familiar with all the lyrics (half of which are en français). So I mumbled along with half confidence, which I must say hurt me when he launched into Petite Soeur ("Je te connais par cœur" Lol!). What I loved the most was the way his feelathomeness dispelled all signs of formality. Literally, we could have been in a jam session with him in his living room. And this casualness was most charming when he suddenly reprimanded some people who were beginning a scuffle. "Eh! Stop the fight. On n'est pas là pour se battre", in the middle of verse two will be one of my fond memories of the night. 

Ben L'Oncle Soul is an amazing performer, and for most of the night I had the feeling of partying in a mowtown fête! I hate making comparisons, and Ben L'Oncle Soul is totally an artist in his own right. But his music reminds me of Otis Redding and Bill Withers. The Soul Man really is an exciting performer, with so much energy! He even came back on stage twice to two encores! The £20 we paid was so worth it. My only disappointment was that he did not perform Seven Nation Army, which is what I expect most of the crowd was waiting for too.

Ben l'Oncle Soul's new album, 'Walk the Line' is set for release in February 2014.
Check out his latest single 'Hallelujah!!! (J'ai tant besoin de toi)' on


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