In the mind’s eye of many at a heaving Brighton Dome Neneh Cherry will always be the super-cool trainer-rocking, rapping Godess of their youth.
But after four decades of making music, the Swedish singer (it’s easy to forget her Scandinavian roots given her affinity with the UK) is so much more than that.
From the punk days with The Slits and X-Ray Spex, to her pop bonanza of the late eighties, through her support of the careers of Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky, to numerous memorable collaborations (including African superstar Youssou N’Dour and Norwegian/Swedish free -jazz trio The Thing), there’s plenty to like and admire.
The Brighton Festival performance was largely about the brilliant, original music she’s created over the past five years with producer and electronic musician Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet).
The beguiling Fallen Leaves was a gently uplifting introduction to these sounds, a bright, but uncluttered tune which saw Cherry’s expressive and familiar voice backed by delicate harp playing on a bed of electronic textures.
As you’d imagine with the guiding hi-tech hand of digital whizz Hebden much of the sound seemed to come from musical laptop chicanery, but the beats were warm and worked well with the minimal accompaniment of the harp, electric bass, and plenty of percussion. Elsewhere, those beats took a turn for the thunderous on the muscular, and fairly magnificent Blank Project, the most persuasive and dynamic of all the new songs.
Just three big old tunes were rolled out for the communal sing-along treatment - Man Child (introduced as “rocking it old-school”), Seven Seconds (during which one misguided and excitable soul waved the light on his mobile phone above his head in lieu of a lighter), and Buffalo Stance, with the time-honoured pop-rap classic given an grimier churning backbeat for good measure.
If the above wasn’t enough for those who wanted more from bygone days, they could at least marvel that she still looked the cat’s pyjamas in those white trainers...