Review: Natalie Imbruglia and KIOL @ Bristol SU

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Layla Link went to see Natalie Imbruglia perform at Bristol University’s SU on 3rd February on her acoustic tour.

Natalie Imbruglia is simply made for intimate gigs. Back again, she is still in great shape and put on a cheery, upbeat show. Her vocals were exceptional, as were her songs; she definitely played to her strengths.

The support act came in the form of KIOL, an Italian acoustic artist who did a complete 180 with his sound. KIOL started out as a punk-rock drummer, and after his sister asked him to start playing the guitar and sing some songs for her he discovered his unique voice and became a heady blend of alt-folk, pop and blues. The prolific artist has written a string of tracks. His first single ‘Broken Up Again’ (2016) got the crowd moving and his EP I Come As I Am (2017) further warmed us up for Natalie.

Following Natalie’s Acoustic tour in April–May last year where she travelled Europe from East to West in support of the album, Male, her new tour affirms her new direction–largely towards charming airy sounds–in her old tracks featuring numerous producers. ‘Shiver’ and ‘Counting Down the Days’ brought emotion to the room. ‘Shiver’ brought to mind late-Nineties Dido, lyrics inclusive, 'So I look in your direction / But you pay me no attention / Do you I know you don't listen to me / 'Cause you say you see straight through me,' Natalie cooed.

Meanwhile the gloriously naff ‘Wrong Impression’, in which she ushered in an upbeat chorus, sounded like a strong candidate for Eurovision. ‘Smoke’, a slow beat tune with Martine McCutcheon-treated vocals, further surprised. It’s the best of a few contributions from producer Henry Binns. Elsewhere there were heart-wringing tunes, swallowed vowels, fuzzy guitars and pretty melodies. Her 1997 ‘Pigeons and Crumbs’ was a delicate, twinkling ballad and the joy she radiated as she stomped the stage during ‘Glorious’ was genuinely uplifting. ‘This is a song about my love affair with London’, she tells the 100-strong audience in the small venue.

‘That Day’ was sheer joy from beginning to end. ‘Anyone here fans of Daft Punk?’, she asked. Considering the majority of the audience was over 40, this was unlikely. Nevertheless, her thrilling cover of Daft Punk's ‘Instant crush’ was fresh and upbeat - you could say, an instant hit.
A high spot of the evening was when Natalie performed songs which we all knew. Not a huge fan myself, this was the highlight of my night. Natalie has been criticised for being a one-hit wonder. However, the song ‘Torn’ still got everyone singing and moving and the conclusion left everyone wanting more. The pianist and guitarist were really excellent. She worked her magic on the classic, a slow-burning house track with echoes of Danii Minogue. Her 1997 debut track came back better than ever–four CDs and many acting appearances later–she still has it.

It’s been almost three years since her last album. The performance was typical of Natalie’s perfectionism. It’s an exhibition on a stage, with lots of evocative imagery and the story of Natalie’s origins told through her songs. The music isn’t perfectionist at all. Eclectic, erratic, fizzing with energy, it’s a testament to Natalie’s vision in pioneering, postmodern pop, and her talented band.

This tour, marking a return to musical roots with her early albums, seems to be a step towards reclaiming lost ground. ‘We really enjoyed our acoustic tour last year so we decided to come back and do it again this year.’ It's stunning to see that there hasn’t been more promotion of her acoustic tour. Yes, it has been a while since Imbruglia has released new music, as she had an almost five-year hiatus. In addition to that decision, the singer has chosen to focus on her acting and her personal growth. But these factors don't mean that an artist should disappear from the conversation of today's music, especially considering that her music and latest tour is a masterpiece in its own right. Natalie delivered exceptionally and at a cheap £30, I would definitely go and see her again.

Featured image: Facebook / Natalie Imbruglia


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