LIVE REVIEW: Chaka Khan & Nu Civilisation Orchestra at Meltdown Festival

LIVE REVIEW: Chaka Khan & Nu Civilisation Orchestra at Meltdown Festival Credit: Jasper Watkins
Credit: Pete Woodhead

Over her fifty-year career in music, Chaka Khan has proven herself to be a musical pioneer. She won a Grammy Award as part of Rufus and became the first R&B artist to have a crossover hit featuring a rapper. Born Yvette Marie Stevens, Khan showcased her curatorial prowess at the 29th edition of Meltdown Festival, hand-picking an elite lineup that set high expectations for her closing performance.

Twenty years ago, Khan released her 10th LP, ClassiKhan, a distinctly British affair featuring the London Symphony Orchestra and recorded mostly at Abbey Road Studios. This time, with the Nu Civilisation Orchestra, her ensemble was more than double the size of Incognito’s, further bolstered by an additional 21-piece choir.

LIVE REVIEW: Chaka Khan & Nu Civilisation Orchestra at Meltdown Festival Credit: Jasper Watkins
Credit: Pete Woodhead

Anniversary album shows are increasingly common, but it was clear that Khan remains passionate and excited about these two-decade-old recordings. Her erudition was evident as she shared knowledge about who wrote, recorded, and popularized each song. This was particularly impressive given the wide span of decades covered, from “I’m In the Mood for Love” written in the thirties, “Crazy” from the sixties, to “Roll Me Through the Rushes” from the seventies. The only thing Khan was less certain of was where one could find a copy of ClassiKhan, humorously advising, “Go online, I guess.”

At 71 years old, Khan’s voice and stage presence were as strong as ever. The orchestral arrangements provided a fresh context for her music, eschewing her signature funk sound. Her vocal interpretations were reminiscent of Amy Winehouse at her peak, though Khan’s voice was several octaves higher and slightly less ethereal.

LIVE REVIEW: Chaka Khan & Nu Civilisation Orchestra at Meltdown Festival Credit: Jasper Watkins
Credit: Pete Woodhead

Khan’s passion and knowledge were complemented by hilarious anecdotes accompanying her three Shirley Bassey covers. She shared that “Big Spender” has always been “a fun, fun song,” but felt unnerved when she heard her four-year-old granddaughter singing it. For “Diamonds Are Forever,” she humorously noted her children’s enthusiasm for having her turned into a diamond posthumously. The arrangements were equally impressive: “Big Spender” featured subtle jazz nuances rather than dramatic brass, while “Goldfinger” was slightly faster, ending with surprising whistling beats.

The festival concluded with Khan’s biggest hits, “Ain’t Nobody” and “I’m Every Woman.” For the latter, an ensemble of guests, including Mica Paris and Lady Blackbird, joined her on stage, creating a memorable finale.

LIVE REVIEW: Chaka Khan & Nu Civilisation Orchestra at Meltdown Festival Credit: Jasper Watkins
Credit: Pete Woodhead

Meltdown allowed Khan to demonstrate her ability to curate a festival and deliver a personal, emotive, and fun performance that ventured beyond her usual funk. The standing ovations she received at her sold-out performance and the stellar contributions from artists like Incognito and Lady Blackbird underscored her success in achieving the festival’s objectives.

 

Xsnoize Author
Michael Barron 352 Articles
Michael first began writing whilst studying at university; reviewing the latest releases and live gigs. He has since contributed to the Fortean Times as well as other publications. Michael’s musical tastes vary from Indie to psychedelic, folk and dubstep.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you Michael Barron for your excellence profession of writing and catching the timeless
    Of essence of Chaka Khan academy it is deeply appreciated you should be awarded The outstanding writing Universal award.

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