The Return of the Gift

September 26, 2014 3:29 PM

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The Return of the Gift

One Christmas, probably close to a decade ago, I dragged my jet-lagged sisters across the wastes of London to an obscure birthday party to hear him serenade a friend. Last year when Roland was performing with Jools Holland's big band, it wasn't the orchestration or Holland's square piano playing that overheated the over 2,000-strong audience in London's historical Albert Hall. When Roland finally came onstage and began singing, you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. People responded because he was emotionally compelling, and not because of any retro appeal. Push those white girl singers aside, Gift remains Britain's best soul singer.

I watched him onstage countless times when he was the lead singer of the Fine Young Cannibals. My front room in Handsworth, Birmingham had been one of many where the band came together before everyone moved down to London. Fast-forward almost thirty years later, Roland at 53 has presence but, more i...

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