Hoxton Square Bar and Grill – 22nd January
Gigs transform dark rooms into sacred spaces and tonight that space is a bedroom. Jerome Thomas warmed us up, the DJs got the crowd singing Lauryn Hill and, even though the Sunday lag feels imminent, we’re ready for Kaleem. There’s a beat of silence before his band perform an epic act of foreplay; a full bodied, bass heavy intro befitting a boxer entering the ring. We brace ourselves. Kaleem enters, not with bravado but the energy of someone genuinely humbled, happy to see us. We melt.
Kaleem glides effortlessly through each track; ‘By My Side’ and ‘Walk Away’ are particular highlights. At one point Kaleem starts to explain, with silky smooth candour, that music helps him express himself and we’re hanging off every word, until he’s cut short by relentless demands he sing older songs from a dedicated group of day one fans. He ploughs on but the screams of ‘KALLLLLLEEEEEEMMMM’ stop being cute by the 15th time, and are the equivalent of your ex running in and screaming screaming ‘YOU DON’T KNOW HIM LIKE I KNOW HIM’. It’s killing the mood, and I’m desperate for Kaleem to dominate the room.
Just as the gig feels like it might be derailed, he regains control by changing position and sharing new material. All of it is gorgeous, erudite and with a rawness which doesn’t just showcase his vocals but pushes them to the next level. Kaleem delivers all with mesmerising ease and we see him now in his truest colours; an artist who’s spent years playing the field has found his sound and takes it in his stride. As an audience this is brand new to us all so finally everyone shuts up and listens.
There’s always been something about Kaleem but tonight it’s clear this could be his year. It’s testament to his charm that even though moments were bumpy, I’d come back for more. He has it in him to take 2018 with both hands, smiling that winning smile and shake up the R&B scene. His immense likeability and unwavering charisma in a world of cold pretentious musicians deserves to win; Kaleem can have it all, he just needs to get his bedroom in order.