Live review: Neneh Cherry, Leith Theatre, Edinburgh, Sat 10 Aug (4 stars)

Live review: Neneh Cherry, Leith Theatre, Edinburgh, Sat 10 Aug

credit: Gaelle Beri

Swedish singer and 80s icon lights up the International Festival

With a career that includes five solo records, multiple collaborations and notable accolades along the way, Neneh Cherry has been innovating and inspiring for over three decades. Her International Festival debut comes at a time when the Swedish singer has taken a fresh direction musically, while still managing to remain one of the most radical pop artists around. This is evident when witnessing the power of her stage presence, which is unpretentious or exaggerated but wholly potent in its delivery.

With her 2018 album Broken Politics, she channels her frustrations at the state of the world, highlighting her ability to remain energised and vocal about the tumultuous nature of our every day. She starts her set soft and steady, with Broken Politics opening track 'Fallen Leaves' providing a decent warm-up to her building anger and resentment. With Four Tet's gentle production and offbeat snares amping things up gradually, the set progresses with anti-gun slow-burn 'Soft Gun Shack' and the hushed shuffle of 'Deep Vein Thrombosis'.

Live review: Neneh Cherry, Leith Theatre, Edinburgh, Sat 10 Aug

credit: Gaelle Beri

'Woman' serves as the first proper sing-along moment, of which there are many more throughout the night, with Cherry's velvety vocals reverberating around the vastness of the venue. With her newer material, which references hard-hitting topics from racism to the refugee crisis, she manages to conjure an atmosphere which feels beguiling and at times claustrophobic, as on the steady bass of 'Kong' or the twinkling 'Synchronised Devotion'. In contrast, tracks like 'Black Project', with its thundering drums and fuzzy bass, bring the energy and the party to the forefront, pushed further along by classics like Raw Like Sushi's 'Manchild'.

'Faster Than The Truth' and 'Natural Skin Deep', the last two songs of her encore before the big finale, supply an effective build-up, the latter track's repetition of 'my love goes on and on', coupled with the steel drums and air horn sounds creating a feeling of nervous energy. When 'Buffalo Stance' finally arrives, the audience erupts in joyous harmony, chanting along to Cherry's boss-like mantra of 'No money man can win my love.'

Neneh Cherry is a true goddess. With the entirety of the Leith Theatre in the palm of her hand from start to finish, she illustrates exactly why she's been doing this for over three decades and why fans still adore her. Her new material may explore serious issues currently affecting society, but tonight, Cherry provides a playful distraction from the outside world, while also offering sobering moments to reflect.

Neneh Cherry

  • 4 stars

The Swedish singer, rapper and audacious 80s icon Neneh Cherry makes her International Festival debut to perform songs from her three-decade career. Her classic debut album Raw Like Sushi fused elements from rap, pop, trip-hop, dance and R&B with remixed synths and woozy drum machines. Its lead single ‘Buffalo Stance…

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