From a number four album in his native U.K. to an opening slot on Mumford & Sons’ U.S. tour, Michael Kiwanuka has already quite a career arc. Now the 26-year-old singer/songwriter can add his first ACL taping to his resumé. “This is a real honor to do this show, to play Austin and do Austin City Limits,” he said at the top of the show, “So we’re gonna have as good a time as we can.”
Kiwanuka and his three-piece band opened with a new song, a breeze of 70s-style folky soul called “If You’d Dare.” From there he launched into the dazzling “Tell Me a Tale,” the groovy opening track of his debut album Home Again. Kiwanuka then went for a mellower vibe, essaying the countryish folk of “Always Waiting” and the Bill Withers-like “Worry Walks Beside Me,” the sweet folk pop of “I’m Getting Ready” and the mellow balladry of “Rest.” He shone a light on one of his other influences, Jimi Hendrix, with a perfect take on the pioneering guitarist’s pretty “May This Be Love.” Kiwanuka also stripped down to just himself and his guitar for the Tin Pan Alley pop of “Any Day Will Do Fine,” the brand new anthem-in-waiting “Running Through the Alleys” and the brooding darkness of Townes Van Zandt’s “Waiting ‘Round to Die.”
After bringing in the black clouds of Van Zandt, Kiwanuka brought the band back on for his radio hit “Home Again,” a jazzy pop tune that’s almost a lullaby. The quartet brought the house down with the funky pop/soul grooves of “I’ll Get Along,” waving to a crowd that definitely wanted more. Kiwanuka gave it to them, though not in the way he originally intended. Though the plan was for he and bassist Pete Randall to play the single “Lasan,” a call for “Bones” by an enthusiastic crowd member found Kiwanuka calling guitarist Miles James and drummer Graham Godfrey back onstage to acquiesce. The upbeat, jazzy groove ended up being the perfect way to end the evening.
Michael Kiwanuka made a striking debut on our stage. Tune in this fall to see the greatness for yourselves.