After storming onto the scene with his summery, reggae-influenced début album, Maverick A Strike, Finley Quaye fell into a downward spiral that involved drugs, violence and the obligatory stint at the Priory Clinic. Now music’s bad boy is back with new material, a new sound and a show at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire. But has all been forgiven and is Finley back for good this time?
Supporting Quaye was 20 year-old singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, whose performance was let down by poor sound. The promising youngster evidently has a powerful voice but it came across as harsh-sounding at this gig. She achieved a more pleasant tone when she was singing low-key numbers rather than the belters.
Both her material, which was a blend of jazz, pop and funk with a splash of reggae, and her voice, were reminiscent of a jazz Nelly Furtado. However, her brass section could go a little easier on the predictable sax solos. Her album Frank has received buckets of praise so it may be in the studio where this artist really flourishes – at just 20 she has loads of time to polish her live performance.
Quaye, on the other hand, performed like a seasoned professional although a little more interaction with the audience wouldn’t have gone amiss. It was the Maverick A Strike material that the mature, subdued audience had come along for and Quaye wisely slotted the biggest hits, Sun Is Shining and Even After All, early into the set. The familiar intro of the former was greeted warmly and Quaye played it like a comfortable pair of slippers.
But this gig was about moving on from the past and Quaye was eager to showcase the new material, which is darker, rockier and has ditched the reggae feel. The atmospheric Dice, taken from the new Much More Than Love album, achieved a suitable level of emotion in its live incarnation.
There is no questioning the talent of Finley Quaye. The diversity and individuality of his music was demonstrated through and through, as was the sheer beauty of his voice that has often been overshadowed by his bad-boy behaviour and arrogance. But what Quaye failed to do was connect to his audience, which resulted in a lack of atmosphere.
Finley Quaye is a true British talent but whether he will be back for good will depend on whether he can be forgiven for his past. This performance demonstrated that it takes a lot more than ability to win fans.