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Photograph by Katie Sara Anderson taken at The Scala, May 2012
Watching AlunaGeorge, the London-based duo made up of Aluna Francis and George Reid, play live to a sold-out crowd at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen is like watching a 40-minute long TLC music video. The two take 90s retromania to an extreme level.
Aluna sings the songs, and George makes the music. They’re quite the duo: she sports a sequinned bralette and track jacket, and prances about the stage, pulling off dance moves that even Robyn would envy. He wears a plaid shirt and stays behind his keyboard for the duration of the set. Every girl in East London has an ex-boyfriend that looks like George.
Although their recorded music is decidedly R&B, it takes inspiration from the Dirty Projectors, pool of thought than those more “En Vogue”. AlunaGeorge’s live performance sounds more turned up and punchy than their singles and EP. Despite having four musicians in the band (including George) their live show is less about the music and more about the vocals. Really, it’s more about Aluna. She owns the stage from start to finish.
‘Just a Touch’ is a pitch-perfect jam, and my favorite song of the evening. “I want you to be yourself, I love it when I see you having fun” sings Aluna over an impeccable hook, before she flawlessly delivers the song’s mega chorus. Halfway through the set, Aluna casts the track jacket to the side and they explode into a cover of Montell Jordan’s ‘This Is How We Do It,’ to everyone’s pleasure. Other standouts include ‘Put Up Your Hands’ and ‘You Know You Like It.’
AlunaGeorge also play a delightful instrumental piece, which sees Aluna and George operating the synth in tandem. Excepting this brief interlude, however, there’s relatively minimal interaction between the two during the set. They finish the set with the mid-tempo floor filler ‘Your Drums, Your Love,’ and skip off the stage. There’s no clamoring for an encore but only because the crowd knows they’ve sung all of their songs.
Like many beloved acts at the moment, the primary appeal of AlunaGeorge’s music is that they take something familiar and worn-out (the 90s) and combine it with something that hasn’t quite died yet: electronic music. Although at the moment they’re still lacking a ‘Stillness is the Move’ equivalent (although ‘Your Drums, Your Love’ comes close), they seem to have convinced quite a few people of the current relevance of their nostalgic tunes.
As someone who listens to ‘Creep’ at least once a day, I’m personally on board with AlunaGeorge’s synth-infused R&B. But theirs is not a one-size fits all sound – if anything, their biggest challenge will come from trying to appeal to everyone instantly with music that’s actually an acquired taste.