YolanDa Brown review: New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth

YolanDa Brown played at New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth as part of her 10 Years in Music Anniversary Tour on September 27, 2018. Picture by Asiko
YolanDa Brown played at New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth as part of her 10 Years in Music Anniversary Tour on September 27, 2018. Picture by Asiko

YolanDa Brown is in celebratory mood – she’s marking 10 years since deciding to dedicate herself to music.

And the insanely talented saxophonist is still clearly having a ball. 
Kicking off the first half with the sultry Tokyo Sunset, a track from her debut, April Showers, May Flowers, eases the audience in nicely.
Next up is Million Billion Love from recent album, Love, Politics, War, which picks the pace up a notch, and features a sublime solo from guitarist Dave Niskin.
Brown has surrounded herself with a tight four-piece band, who obviously enjoying playing together. They know they’re there to support their frontwoman – but they all also get their chance to shine with solo spots throughout the evening.
Other highlights from the opening set include a tribute medley to YolanDa’s hero Bob Marley, and the track Confusion, which lives up to its name, with a blistering mid-song breakdown.
We also get to learn about YolanDa’s own self-created genre, ‘posh reggae’ – the fusion of reggae, jazz and soul.
Following a short break, things resume with the more strident General PoliTricks, featuring some nimble finger work from bassist Rick Leon James.
After the ‘love’ of the first half, this is the ‘politics’ half of the show, but things are kept in the abstract - YolanDa and band let the music do the talking. And when they lock into a groove, which they frequently do, it’s something special. Drummer Talbert Wilson and keys player Precious Obimdi know when to hold back and when to fly.
A cover of The Beatles’ Hey Jude gets the audience singing, before a rousing climax that nods to Afrobeat – her own Festac Town, which melds perfectly into Lady by the legendary Fela Kuti.
Here’s to the next 10.