Soul In The City: Janine Johnson – And Smooth Operator Malia



SOUL singer Janine Johnson is nothing but resourceful. All the time she is looking for new ways to entertain audiences and set herself apart from the madding crowd.

Evolution rather than stagnation. All commendable.

Sometimes, her projects do not get off the ground as happened recently when she had to pull the plug on a show at Pizza Express Live in Birmingham for lack of demand (the pull of the World Cup did not help). If it had gone ahead, it would have seen her share the stage with a comedian. A combination of soul and barrels of laughter.

But when her experiments work, they can come off quite splendidly as they did at Pizza Express Live Holborn on Saturday (June 30). This time, as part of her ‘soul in the city’ mission (bringing soul music to all the country’s major cities), she hooked up with singer Malia.

The result was that soul met smooth. Loud and deep vied with mellow and sensual. It all worked a treat as evidenced by the response of the audience who by the end of the show were on their feet, swinging their hips and asking for more.

Johnson, her head shaved, has undeniable stage presence – she wore a dress that lit up the cavernous room with its menagerie of exotic colours – and her voice is both deep and powerful.

The first set was all hers as she demonstrated an ability to write (and deliver adeptly) her own songs with opener Constant Evolution, Passion (an emotion key to Johnson’s whole being) and break-up song Thank You.

But her passion, big heart and voice came through best of all in her version of Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody. I am not sure I have heard a better cover of this hit as Johnson poured every ounce of her soul into it. Versions of the Brand New Heavies’ Midnight At The Oasis and En Vogue’s Don’t Let Go were not far behind. ‘There’ll be some love making, heart breaking, soul shaking.’ The gentleman sitting just in front of the stage’s lip quivered in his boots as Johnson momentarily held his gaze.

After the interval, Johnson sang a couple of songs before making way for Malia. The tempo slowed but Malia delivered a perfect mini set full of sensuality. She swayed and oozed mellowness. Images of Parisian bars came to the fore. Peggy Lee’s Fever was expertly delivered, followed by a soothing version of Feeling, a song made famous by one of her heroes Nina Simone. Her shoes came off but not before taking a swipe at the men who design them so badly. Interestingly, My Purple Shoes soon followed, a song about love for her Paul Smith shoes.

The show came to a finale with Johnson joining Malia on stage to sing Lovely Day with the encore being a rousing rumbustious version of Sister Sledge’s Thinking Of You.

While Johnson and Malia stole the show, Kim Murray played the guitar with great verve – excelling on Don’t Let Go and Midnight At The Oasis. An understated talent.

Johnson has a big personality. The bigger the song the more powerful her voice is. As for Malia, she just exudes smouldering cool. Between them, it works on stage Smoothly.

For Janine Johson

For Malia

For Pizza Express Live

Title Image by Antonio Narvaez

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