We’re irked on V V Brown’s behalf. We’ll tell you for why: when we asked her a while back – in reference to her excellent new album, Samson & Delilah – why this transformation didn’t happen sooner, the response was savagely honest: “it didn’t happen the first time round because art was second in a corporate bubble, now I’m free to be pure.”
And that’s why we’re annoyed. As we noted in our review of the album (and as highlighted in this pertinent Popjustice piece), if V V Brown were a new artist drip-feeding this kind of brilliance online, people would be losing their shit for her. But, as it stands, Samson & Delilah remains dreadfully overlooked. Not that you’d be able to tell from Brown’s confident, carefree performance this evening.
Smoke billows out before she enters, a rolled-out white carpet for a PVC-geisha. Brown uses the darkness of Electrowerkz to her advantage – while not as melodramatic as it could be, there’s still the right sense of foreboding to match the industrial pop of her new album. She cuts quite the figure: a Ghibli-esque creation in front of stark visuals, light creating a liberated burqa. We can only imagine what she might put together with more cash.
It’s not long before we’re into Nothing Really Matters, an absolute stomper, and it’s only after that does Brown drop her guard and crack a smile, knowing by now that she is among friends. It becomes a set that can, at least aurally, rival Grace Jones’s heyday – Faith turns into a power-packed singalong, and Warriors sounds like a ready-made political anthem, Brown stirring up enough fervour to mobilise a small North London army. It’s helped in no small way by rousing drum-work throughout, reaching an apex during Samson and ever-stunning closer The Apple.
At one point, rather apologetically, Brown asks if she can dip into her back catalogue, in her words ‘to respect the work that allowed me to stand here today’. If anything, that juxtaposition serves to highlight just how far Brown has come on her own. No longer the doo-wop pop peddler that’s recently sent Stooshe down a trapdoor, she has – like the Biblical character she sings about – shorn off an identity to create something fiercely unique. For V V Brown, painful necessity was certainly the mother of (re)invention, and she’s finally capable of being its poster child.