A Night with Hayley Cassidy, it should have been called ‘A Night with Hayley and Half of London‘ as the R&B songstress’ headline show was sold out and over capacity, although within five minutes of this star’s performance I had no trouble in understanding why. With her smooth and sultry voice in 229 The Venue’s intimate setting, the night was set to be one to remember, and Hayley Cassidy truly did look every bit the R&B star with her fun, energetic and feisty persona , combined with her gangster/chic glitter-covered blazer ensemble.
The night was filled with talent and not only from headliner Hayley, as the audience were being kept entertained and on their toes by host, MTV Base’s Kat B. He warmed the crowd up with a variety of humorous anecdotes, as he introduced the night’s impressive roster of artists. The crowd were also lucky enough to have BBC 1Xtra’s Ace dropping some fresh beats on the decks. Kat B and Ace worked great together all night with what seemed to be a double act at some points, that never failed to bring laughter to everyone in the building.
First to hit the stage was South London rapper Bonkaz who became part of the Mizer Million Club in 2013. The young rapper has been influenced by artists such as Kanye West, Jay Z, Coldplay and Nickleback, so I could see where this young newcomer gained such a wide range of musical preferences, and this echoed through his whole performance. However Bonkaz started the show with a very personal and heartfelt track that really showed his depth and abilities as a young artist. His whole performance was unique and displayed not only his musical capabilities but some production techniques as well, as he had actors come on stage and act out scenes which were apparent to be scenes of his life. It created an atmosphere of understanding and helped us as an audience to feel a part of his journey.
As soon as Bonkaz left the stage, Kat B was straight back on to get the crowd ready and pumped for the next act. This was young London vocalist Rukhsana Merrise, she came on stage with her guitarist and immediately had my attention. As she began her first song, I completely lost all other focus and felt caught on her every word. I remember leaning over to my boyfriend after the first verse she so beautifully sung and whispered ‘I love her’, as she had this unique musicality about her that balances well between her deep husky vocals and her poetic ability to create moving images. I soon realized when I looked around the venue that I was not alone, she had captured everybody’s attention with her raw talent and unique way of mixing vulnerability with confidence. I could go on and on about this girl so I will just sum up her performance as high quality, moving and inspirational, and I hope to see this girl again.
Rukhsana Merrise – “Tears O’ Freedom”:
Both support acts had enough charisma and talent to be headlining their own shows and I would definitely recommend both, to any one that loves raw talent and live music. They also set a great atmosphere for the beautiful headline act to start her show, and Kat B gave a great introduction to the young, hot and catapulting star that is Hayley Cassidy.
Musically, Hayley has a voice that fits somewhere within Hip Hop, Jazz, R&B and Soul and she had no problem in fulfilling all four styles with great ease. She sung songs off her debut album Stripped which was released in early January 2013, including the single “Stripped” itself that really got the whole venue feeling in sync, singing and dancing. The star also sung some never-before-performed material that really demonstrated this artist’s ever evolving and non generic style. She stayed true to her fans the whole way through the night and even sung some material from her debut EP Real Talk which is where it began for Hayley back in 2009.
This lady demonstrated the ability to pull off raw emotion and inspirational lyrics that bellowed through her songs, while her unique and infectious ad libs coincided with ease, there was no wonder that the track “Stripped” was recently playlisted as ‘Best of British’ on BBC 1Xtra. She also brought forward her versatility when she performed a cover of Chris Brown’s “Dangerous” in which she really made her own, and completely let lose on stage. This lady gave an honourable headline show and looked as if she belonged on that stage, and I have no doubt that I will see her again, as she is an example of the authentic UK music that is out there today.