Yola’s dynamic stage presence, lithe voice and the way she seemed to confide in listeners with every song introduction put her firmly in control of the packed World Cafe Live.
She and her perfectly in-step band seemed more like seasoned vets than a still-gelling unit pushing a debut record as they made their way through the soulful songs of Walk Through Fire (especially “I Don’t Wanna Lie,” “Shady Grove” and the title track) and several well-curated covers (most notably, Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and a mash-up of “Big Yellow Taxi” and “The Letter”).
Amythyst Kiah opened with a wonderful mix of blues, roots, folk and rock, including solo work (“Wildebeest”), songs from her great side project Our Native Daughters (“Black Myself,” “Polly Ann’s Hammer”) and a couple of stone-cold classics that sounded fresh in her hands (“Jolene,” “Darling Corey”). She moved fluidly between acoustic guitar and banjo, and though she pitched her voice down a step—at times calling to mind a prophet or a preacher—it sounded like the most natural thing in the world.
—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich