WPGM Reviews: Zak Abel Live At KOKO

Another KOKO sell-out from another rising male artist. Atlantic record’s Zak Abel took to the stage at the 1400 cap Camden venue on Tuesday, October 10, with a whole load of charisma and charm. Opening with the catchy sync-friendly “All I ever Do (Is say Goodbye)”, it wasn’t short of some groove, radiating energy from the first beat and into “These Are The Days“.

He treated the crowd to some of his older tracks from his 2015 release One Hand On The Future including “Say Sumthin” and to show the commitment of his fans, as he begun to introduce his next track, the audience were shouting out for his song “Flow“. This wasn’t in the set nor was it rehearsed but in true showmanship, he pleased the crowd with an acoustic snippet.

I feel Zak has made time and effort to bond with his supporters outside of his shows as well as during, which goes to no surprise as he oozed bundles of personality from start to finish. “Alchemy” brought back the dance feel, the purple and blue strobe lighting adding to a club style feel, with some clean vocal runs injected throughout. “Soul Child” saw guitarist, Paul jam out in the breakdown, the on stage chemistry shone through as you could see the genuine passion both Zak and his band had for the music.

He incorporated his fans throughout the whole gig and before the next track “Awakening” where he asked the crowd “are you ready to sing with me, I want it like your in a football stadium”. He had the audience in the palm of his hand creating a call and response, the whole of the venue bursting into chant as Zak conducted and controlled.

Although his whole band were insanely talented musicians his fluid drummer really stole the show, the sound was so crisp, his drums fills were so tactful but nothing short of subtle, instilling so much animation to the show. Very much an outlier on the overall feel of the album for me, his next track “Broken” was still so confidently and energetically performed that it made you soak in the dance party atmosphere, with those tropical vibes showering the track.

He transitioned into “Make You Love Me” a collaboration with Jarreau Vandal, so very soul train it complimented the set so delightfully. It was the perfect track to lead into an instrumental break as he let his talented band have their own moment.

It is without a doubt, Zak had certainly had his share of an incredibly skilful set of musicians. This allowed his rendition of “Beautiful Escape“, the collaboration track with the red-hot and on the radar Tom Misch to link fluently afterwards.

The acoustic section saw the stage dim to just a simple hollywood lighting style lamps, taking it back to basics with just him and the guitar for a cover of “Redbone” by Childish Gambino. To an already buzzing crowd, Zak introduced Sinead Harnett which really shook things up, her soulfully silky vocals complimented Zak’s gritty tone perfectly and was executed tastefully, it was a really special addition to the set.

For probably his most intimate track “Deserve To Be Loved”, he took to the corner of the stage, taking a seat at the keyboard for a roar and intimate opening. He returned back to the centre of the stage, the white strobe lighting spinning faster and brighter, creating a really appealing stage.

His talented band erupted behind him as the chorus came alive. In all honesty, I thought his stage presence and continuous driving force of his band really brought the whole album to life when performed live, this one especially. The gospel feel from the two female backing singers really radiated warmth and depth as they contributed a consistently elegant sprinkle to each track.

He changed up the acoustic vibe with the title track “Only When We’re Naked” from his debut album which saw the crowd really get stuck in. They were excited as people started to get up on shoulders, iPhone cameras sweeping the crowd. The girls in front of us began waving around a bra. Whether someone had whipped this off for the song or had it in their bag ready, I have no idea but I guess it was pretty appropriate to the song.

It’s without a doubt his good looks have gained him a rally of female fans, quoting a girl after the show “His face was just so distracting”. However, it is undeniable that he has some serious musical talent, his vocals were strong, faultless and consistent throughout the whole set.

After coming back on stage, Zak really smashed the last two songs. “Beautiful Life” injecting a little R&B into the mix. He jumped down into the front, getting on the same level as his doting fans during “Unstable”, the sweep of arms in the air across the crowd who were dancing along to a fun and faultless finisher.

After bringing on guest Sinead Harnett, there may have been some anticipation for Wretch 32 to make an appearance but I guess he can’t give away all his tricks straight away. With another show set for March at Shepherds Bush Empire, I don’t doubt Zak Abel will come back bigger, bolder and with a whole load more surprises (and dance moves) up his sleeve.

A likeable, energetic young artist with an adoring fanbase and soaring vocal melodies, Zak Abel will certainly be one to continue following over the next year. Keep tabs with him on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud.

Words by Jodie Brunning

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