Karima Francis, Support

Abbas Ali 25/03/2009

'Keeping it real' - isn't that what music's all about? Opening your heart and soul to the world and showing them who you 'really' are? A newly emerging singer, Karima Francis steps on stage to hushed silence, capturing the hearts and ears of the audience in the opening bars of tonight\s first song, The Author, which is the title track of her d├ębut album. She reveals herself with an openness that is unflinching and brave. Her highly anticipated appearance at this triumphant homecoming gig turns things from a noisy bar-room to attentive audience instantaneously. The tension and drama of this opening number is only briefly ruined by a Dom Joly-inspired idiot in the centre of the capacity 300-strong crowd who gets a call and decides to take it, to the ire of onlookers.

As the delicate sensitivity of The Author is followed by current single Again, with its strong chorus, her four-piece male band begin to rock, albeit gently, and the clear commercial potential of Francis' proposition becomes evident. Fitting somewhere in the lineage of Britain's recent slew of young female vocalists; this is emotive, soulful pop music, without the drug-addled self-harm of Amy Winehouse , or the pouting tabloid-friendly blondeness of Duffy. Karima's star is clearly in the ascendant, as she delivers music of the kind that could easily soundtrack blockbuster Rom-coms or fill stadiums.

Looking round at the varied mix of Manchester's beautiful people, with her family assembled on the balcony, one can feel the sense of occasion tonight. It is the week of the album and single launch for 21-year-old Blackpool-born Francis, and there is an urgency and heartfelt passion in her voice that won't be denied. If her fragile, androgynous Bob Dylan-esque figure and her voice intimates otherworldliness and star quality, it's completely at odds with her down to earth persona. In between songs, she chats to the audience like a friend amongst friends (many of tonight's audience undoubtedly are), talking openly about how her life is changing as fame ensues, with a mixture of what feels like trepidation and excitement. Sharing news of her support slot with The Stereophonics on the Teenage Cancer Trust bill at the Royal Albert Hall, she also tell us of a forthcoming slot on Later....with Jools Holland. As she so charmingly puts it: 'I'm on the same show as Carole King....Shit the bed!'

Halfway into the evening, she introduces an acoustic cover of Kings of Leon's Use Somebody, she questions herself for choosing a non-original song. 'Guess this means I'm fake doesn't it?' she says, smiling self-effacingly. Her life and the company she keeps may be changing, but she has nothing to worry about there: Francis may be pop, but she's the real deal.


The Author
Use Somebody (cover)
Morse Code
Chasing the Morning Light
Hold You Again
Laurel Avenue
Remember your Name (encore)