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It started out as just another studio day for producer and guitarist, Carmelo Luggeri – until pop legend Kiki Dee came in to put down a vocal …. He’d seen her many times on TV, but once she started singing, he was just blown away by the amazing tone of her unmistakeable voice. Little did he suspect that, from that day on, his musical career was to change for ever.
The late Steve Brown (the man who discovered Elton) told him, ‘There’s something special happening when you play acoustically with Kiki.. you should team up’. Possessed of a great eye for talent, Steve became their mentor.
Carmelo admits: ‘That was the day he got us to turn left’. And now, 25 years on from that epiphany, the synergy between the two has blossomed, firmly establishing them as one of the UK’s great musical pairings.
2018 saw a year of musical consolidation for the popular duo – Bob Harris wanted them as opening act for the re-booted Whistle Test, and indeed this turned out to be a seminal moment, leading to long overdue recognition and critical acclaim.
A large and influential TV audience was delighted to see Kiki not only looking superbly fit, but her unique voice even better than they remembered. Both performers enjoy a heritage which stretches back through decades of fine musicianship, yet in all that time Kiki Carmelo concerts never became a museum piece, a go through-the-motions tribute act.
Their long-running body of work is not, nor ever will be, set in aspic. Kiki’s upbeat song ‘Forward Motion’ perfectly encapsulates her innate disdain for standing still, her music constantly evolving.
As well as K&C compositions and Carmelo’s beautiful acoustic arrangements of obligatory ‘Kiki songs’, sublime numbers by great artists are sprinkled into their concerts to great effect. Harry Manx, Leonard Cohen, Kate Bush & Lowell George are welcome additions to a KC setlist – with even a bit of Depeche Mode & Frank Sinatra thrown in for good measure.
Kiki laughs off this refreshingly cavalier approach: ‘We venture all over the place musically – but I’ve learnt to embrace it – our live shows are very eclectic’.
Equally at home playing intimate London jazz venues or Theatres and Arts Centres in far-flung market towns, the two’s free-wheeling, often humorous vibe has made them a shoe-in for the flourishing Summer festival market.
On stage, Carmelo’s mesmerising playing and arrangements plus loops and Asian Drones fill out the sound to great effect, with Kiki providing moody texture & subtle underscore on keys. Add to that Ms Dee’s unique and distinctive voice (which surely should have a national preservation order on it!) and audiences are guaranteed one wonderful evening’s entertainment.
And, following countless sell-out gigs in 2018, those audiences are getting larger, and the cries of ‘encore!’ getting louder…
Long may it, and they, continue.
By Radio Legend Adrian Juste