Following the critical and commercial success of both Crying For No Reason and its parent album Little Red earlier this year, Katy B’s transition from one-album wonder to an evolving, exciting artist seems to have been pretty much effortless. The new record may have explored more mature themes and song topics, but at its heart it retained a lot of the uniqueness and charm that made 2011’s On A Mission such a thrilling debut release. She brings the year to a close with the supporting tour’s second leg, and as she descends on Bristol’s O2 Academy for the first time in three years it turns out that she gives a performance that is surprisingly theatrical, occasionally rowdy, but certainly never dull. The night’s setting of a nice medium-sized venue feels perfectly suited to Katy’s ability – there’s enough space to accommodate a team of dancers and a brilliantly extravagant light show, but her down to earth personality never feels lost or drowned out. She may occasionally lack the star quality of some of her contemporaries, but the night is designed around her strengths.
She has an excellently emotive voice that manages to silence a rowdy Friday night crowd on several occasions, but also enough songs like Lights On and Hot Like Fire to give the gig a proper club atmosphere when needed. When Katy was just starting out a couple of years ago the charts were filled with a ridiculous number of pop songs about clubbing, each with lyrics more generic than the last, but the likes of Katy On A Mission never came under fire because of how real they felt. These were lyrics about clubbing written by someone who actually goes clubbing, and this is exactly how she comes across onstage, frequently mentioning how some of her best nights out have taken place in Bristol. As a performer she’s simply impossible to dislike.
There are some nice surprises as the night goes on. She mixes a bit of Lauryn Hill’s Doo Wop (That Thing) into Easy Please Me with glorious results, and even performs What Love Is Made Of, the underperforming single that was cut from the Little Red album. As one of the finest songs of this year Crying For No Reason is an obvious set highlight, but Still and Everything also manage to shine, the latter in a way it could never quite manage in studio form. Elsewhere, Lights On is quite frankly incredible, and surprisingly Next Thing also ends up getting a wild crowd reaction. She does a nice job of Aayliah, but as often happens with collaborations in a live setting the absence of the other artist means that things never quite reach perfection. There isn’t much to fault in the setlist, but both Blue Eyes and Sapphire Blue feel like filler, and could have easily been replaced by I Like You or first album single Witches Brew. Still, these are minor issues at best – with two excellent albums and now an ability to put on a great show to her name, it’s surely time for Katy B to be recognised as one of the UK’s most exciting and consistent female artists.