Four nights of fantastic free outdoor live music with Jazz in the Park, Eastern Beats, Back to the Boogie and Proms in the Park: this is Under The Stars, the free music festival – at its 14th edition this year – offered by The Mayor of Newham; an event that gives the people of what many consider arguably one of London’s most deprived areas, an incredible moment of entertainment and fun.
The first night this year presented a luxury lineup: the fathers of acid jazz, The Brand New Heavies and Incognito, on the same stage in the same night. I couldn’t miss such a mind blowing event, so I arranged an exclusive interview with the Brand New Heavies, after interviewing Incognito one week earlier on the occasion of their show at the the Ronnie Scott’s in Soho (click here to read the interview to Incognito).
I arrived in time to enjoy the soundcheck before the interview and was welcomed by Richard, the tour manager, and Evangelos, the Senior Events Office of Newham, who both did their best to make me feel at home (thank you guys). The atmosphere in the backstage was quite electrifying, the band and the musicians making jokes and looking relaxed. It goes without saying this is what those people have been doing for years, music and live shows are the air they breathe.
After greeting briefly Jan Kincaid (he was busy with the setlist) and Dawn Joseph, I had the chance to sit down for an enlightening chat with legendary Simon Bartholomew, who turned out to be an incredibly funny person with interesting insights (read the full interview here).
After the interview, Simon invited me to join the rest of the band and the crew for dinner before the show, so I had the pleasure to meet again some members of Incognito, drummer Francesco and trumpeter Sidney. After enjoying a tasty vegan dinner I decided to go out and wait for some friends and our photographer, Oscar, to join me for the show while enjoying the opening act, Ciyo Brown – a talented guitarist, singer and composer who is renowned for his eclectic approach to music, evidenced by the diverse range of styles, from reggae to jazz, from soul to blues. The audience – a mix of races, colours, cultures and social classes in typical London style – seemed to really enjoy Brown’s music in a festive summer atmosphere.
It was around 8 pm when The Brand New Heavies walked on stage and quickly the audience stood up from their seats, ready to dance to the rhythm of of their most famous hits. Singer Dawn Joseph instantly took the stage with personality and her great voice delivered splendidly during the 90-minute show. It’s no surprise Andrew, Jan and Simon are great musicians, the latter being a true showman constantly interacting with the public. The setlist offered some tracks from their new – highly recommended – album “Forward”, like the beautiful disco-flavoured “Sunlight” (performed in the album by the amazing N’Dea Davenport) and “Heaven”, in addition to hits like “You Are The Universe” and “Dream on Dreamer”. There was a touching moment too when the band improvised the baseline of The Jacksons’ “Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)” and Andrew payed homage to the late King of Pop – “Thank You Michael Jackson”- driving the audience literally crazy.
After the Brand New Heavies it was time for Incognito to walk on stage. Bluey and his band delivered once again an electrifying, overwhelming performance of music perfection and love messages (read the full report of Incognito’s show at the Ronnie Scott’s here).