Live Gig Reviews

Joe Rudkin

‘Leila Adu is a singer-songwriter pianist with Ghanian roots, a voice of incredible depth, power and versatility, not to mention a penchant for pushing traditional composition firmly into experimental territory.’

URB ALT Live Review Blog
URB ALT Festival, New York, 2009

Next up was the unnameable Italian/New Zealand/London badass I kept referencing who goes by the name Leila Adu. I was turned onto Leila’s work by the multi-talented Otto Fischer(check him 6/27 at the UA Fest Finale). Many of the artists I find to play the fest come from hours upon hours of listening to music/watching videos. It can be very frustrating because with instruments and recording capabilities accessible to most everyone there is so much more mediocre work to wade through. It always helps when I get a reference for an artist and Otto didn’t lie. Leila Adu is one of those special artists whose work transcends pop song and could dance in theater, film, commercials or whatnot. She is intensely melodic, bitingly funny and immensely skilled in delivering a song solo from the stage. She was decked out in a white dress that was giving me serious Cleopatra vibes which again…score one for the ladies in fashion. lol Her set started with her strutting the stage singing an a cappela tune eventually pouncing upon the Nord Lead piano and tearing through a brilliant performance of “Ode to the Unknown Factory Worker.” The dissonant chords pulled people in while pushing them away in a cool metaphor of the tension that exists in a factory sweatshop setting. I loved Leila’s song “Cherry Pie” when first hearing it a few weeks ago but seeing it performed live revealed layers to the song that I didn’t perceive initially. Great stuff. Leila is definitely a star on the rise with her most recent album being produced by Steve Albini, producer of Nirvana and Big Black. Keep your eyes peeled for this comet on the horizon.

Inkoma Fanzine, Italy
Live Show with Sleepy Sun (US, ATP Records)

At 11pm is Leila Adu to go on stage. Originally from New Zealand, currently moved in Rome, – Her amazing talent made me think of Regina Spektor and Nina Simone, just to give You some coordinates.
I didn’t know Her Music until last night, – but since her first vocal intro, no mic, – stepping through the crowd from the back of the hall until the stage, She soon shined out and i felt i was going to like.
No band, – just a solo of her and a nord electro keyboard, – Her performance might look pretty spartan, said like that, – but at the same time it was such so strong and communicative, – no doubt Her voice is pure talent, – warm and sensual, and Her musical inventions are hypnotic (Dark Joan, as well her Ode to the unknown factory worker – not obsessive as Suicide’s Frankie Teardrop yet equally evocative in Her own key), original and sometimes even funny (Panic at the shopping mall). I grabbed Her Cherry Pie CD, Her second release, – sounds really good, – i’m currently listening to it…

Tessa Prebble Salient Magazine
Leila Adu with Sam Flynn-Scott, Happy, Wellington

Leila Adu followed soon after and from the moment she opened her mouth I had almost constant goose bumps. Her voice moved from the absolutely sublime and sensitive in songs like Cecelias Gift (which had me sitting on the edge of my seat in enjoyment) to the more raunchy and guttural growl of songs like Trainand to the sultry depths of songs like For A Man where she matches the baritone saxs lows with ease. The set was flawless.

Adus voice and talent was matched by the skill of her accompanying musicians. Jeff Henderson on the baritone sax, and Rick Cranson on drums both proved their worth during impressive solos. And while Tom Callwood on the double bass, and David Long on guitar, did not get quite as much time to shine- the culmination of all the instruments was mind blowing.

Adu played most of the songs from her latest release Cherry Pie, and at the end of the set, she, and her musicians, were called back on stage for an encore. Although the audience was small, they managed to make enough noise to voice their appreciation well.

I was stunned into near silence at the end of the set. Struggling for words I turned to the friend who had accompanied me and he provided the perfect analogy for the way Adu sounded. You know how Fat Freddys Drop is like the ocean in the day time. Well Leila Adu is like a river at night time. You know. The kind of river that trampers talk about, its that sudden and powerful display of nature. I couldnt have put it any better. Listening to Adu is like being exposed to something elemental.