Approaching Notting Hill Arts Club I’m accosted by protesters in ‘Stop Sabrina Kennedy’ shirts, proffering fliers saying ‘we believe Sabrina Kennedy practises spells, curses, blessings and other dangerous acts. We advise you not to attend this concert and go home and pray instead’. I can’t decide if it’s real or staged, or if their claims have any basis, but there’s a pentagram on the carpet in the entrance.
Luckily nothing has prevented the Wednesday night crowd packing in downstairs and hanging on Kennedy’s every word.
Onstage Kennedy – biker-jacket, shades, limitless black hair – evokes the bygone ‘rock star’ era of Cher and Janis Joplin, throwing herself around with a physicality to match her band’s power. But it’s the voice that holds the audience: part Aguilera, part Adele, part rock, part soul, this is not TikTok autosqueak or the whisper of another acoustic introspective. Kennedy’s rich arcing sound gets you in the gut and demands your attention, from the mournful, almost operatic opener ‘Overflow’, into the organ-driven gothic soul of ‘Red Wine’.
“You can burn me at the stake like a puritan” starts the next song. Besides being a standout hit-in-waiting pop banger, the song might explain the theatrics outside: puritans burning witches, the fear of the female, dangerous magic.
And yes in an era of small voices there’s something raging about Kennedy’s performance, but in truth these are heartbreak songs, nothing to be so scared of. Introducing the sublime ‘Hold Tight’, she says ‘I’m the product of a woman who couldn’t keep a man’ before dedicating it to her late father. It’s an epic powerpop ballad, destined for much bigger stages than this.