Gig Review – Kara Marni at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen

Kara Marni started singing at a very young age, and realised she wanted to be an artist after listening to Minnie Ripperton’s iconic ‘Loving You’. Drawing her style from soul icons such as Diana Ross, Roberta Flack and Nina Simone, she grew up trying to imitate them in an attempt to find her own voice. The East Finchley native later went on to study at the BRIT SCHOOL in South London, where she honed her signature sound reminiscent of the likes of Ella Eyre, Alessia Cara and Ella Mai. After signing to Access Records, she released her first E.P ‘Love Just Ain’t Enough’ earlier this year, and has since opened for the likes of Ray BLK, Rita Ora and Raye.

The night started with a set by DJ Ace, followed by a performance by Sub Blue. Accompanied by just an acoustic guitar and a drum box, occasionally taking up his electric guitar to strum a few chords, his emotional voice exploited the simplicity of the set to the fullest. He sang about millennial blues, the need to capture every moment on social media and leaving his teenage years behind – eminently relatable, it was a relaxing opening before the frenzy that would ensue.

Confession time: Kara Marni’s r&b soulpop isn’t usually my scene. Although Hoxton’s Bar and Kitchen is known for promoting an eclectic range of emerging artists, I didn’t expect to enjoy the gig as much as I did, but this music took on another dimension when played live.

When Kara Marni walked on stage, accompanied by her band and backing singers, the crowd roared. She might be an ‘emerging artist’, but the crowd’s reaction made clear that her following is as committed as any hit-maker’s – the sold-out show was too packed to move in, and fans had even flown in from Germany to see her in the flesh.

Her energy simply couldn’t be tamed – every movement, every hair flick, was hypnotising. No backing dancers or trippy visuals needed, her stage presence was enough to captivate the audience, every harmony effortlessly in sync with her backing singers over the din of her frantic fans.

Whether in feelgood hits like “Golden” (which explores how precious love can be) or defiant anthems like “Move” (“go ahead order your Uber” is what we all wish we’d said to our ex), Marni’s powerful voice is always front and centre. As the title of her E.P suggests, her lyrics are deeply personal – love, heartbreak and loss are broached with a self-aware vulnerability, and on stage this makes for a compelling performance.

The real indication of how far Marni is going is that in Hoxton she took risks without hesitation – and nailed them. She performed a non-rehearsed a capella version of ‘All or Nothing’ with her backing singers, complete with flawless harmonies, and grabbed a guitar for an acoustic cover of ‘Ex Factor’ by Lauryn Hill.

There’s not a shadow of a doubt that Kara Marni is about to hit the bigtime, and I’m so glad I got to witness her in all her glory. She is one of those artists that reach their full potential when on stage and it was amazing to have my indifference change to adoration in the space of a few hours. I might not be playing her music on repeat, but I’m counting the days till her next live show.

You can follow Kara Marni on Spotify here.


Words by Iris Jaouen

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