Charismatic, quick witted, versatile and in possession of a stunning, octave-spanning set of pipes, Nakisha Esnard was the gifted ringmistress of an oddly ramshackle show at a pre-festivities Finsbury. Fronting a pared-down reggaeish quartet and resplendent in checked shirt and bow tie, Nakisha thrummed at her mandolin while her super-soulful singing stretched the limits of her backers’ lazy skank palette, her prodigious energy initially too big for her band, even when her vocal meanderings focused on such prosaic subject matter as guzzling vino prior to the gig. Early doors, it all had the feel of a jam session, the Luton chanteuse even improvising a cheeky proposal to sack her group as another tune ran its apparently formless course. But perhaps this unorthodox, unstructured delivery was the better to showcase Nakisha’s hyperactive showmanship, her on-the-spot witticisms and off-the-cuff interactivity that drew the crowd to her. And, almost indescernibly, the band’s sparse dubisms began to assume an infectious, natural feel, no longer at odds with the singer’s expansive talents but offering a loose canvas to display her offbeat brushstrokes on original material that fused poppy r’n’b with all things roots. To further stir the melting pot, she finished with a ukelele-driven ska version of ‘Spice Up Your Life' sung in full operatic mode, which, as unlikely as it sounds, was hugely enjoyable. From the enormity of her voice right down to the personalised messages scrawled on the back of each of her flyers, Nakisha Esnard displayed effortless self-assurance as a musician and entertainer – a slick package given a twist tonight by its casual presentation.
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