LIVE REVIEW: Puma Blue, KOKO, London, 28/09/2023
For soulful singer-songwriter Puma Blue (aka Jacob Allen), KOKO in London is the music venue his wildest dreams have been craving to perform at. “This is a pretty surreal moment. 8 years ago I was standing right there where you are so this is kinda crazy and I’m so grateful to be here” Allen utters mid way through his dream date.
Whilst these days Allen might call Atlanta his home away from home, the graceful spirit of Puma Blue is embedded in the beautiful architecture of a venue like KOKO’s stature. South London born and bred, Allen has spent years honing his artistry in the confines of the capital’s music scene. Whether it be in 2019 performing at EartH situated in buzzing Hackney, debuting his Late Night Special coming straight from the vibrant Battersea Arts Centre to the cosy confined of The Fox And Firkin found in the South East to the now iconic KOKO in London’s historic Camden Town, Jacob Allen’s love for his hometown is something you can’t take over the Atlantic Ocean.
And as Puma is moments away from stepping out onto the lampshade lit stage that inhabits his dream venue, the crowd is buzzing full of crushes, family, friends and lovers gathered to be a part of this surreal dream Puma Blue’s with the utmost love and gratitude for a singer-songwriter that is simply an enigma.
Transcending emotionally dark subject matters into something breathtakingly stunning coming complete with spine tingling falsettos and pensive lo-fi textures invigorated with bright brassy guitars and jazzy sax solos is the pinnacle of the DNA of a Puma Blue live show and Allen’s new material taken from his latest LP Holy Waters taps into this sexy sombreness to perfection. The set starts with Falling Down, a graceful descent into sleek R&B beats and muffled vocal textures that slide your way into the immaculate vibes Puma provides throughout, later followed by the delicate O, The Blood! Pretty and Dream of You, Puma pausing momentarily to confess “Can we start that one again, I completely forgot the lyrics.”
Where Allen’s new material wallows in intimate fragility and raging emotion, his older material does so with a sprinkle of pazazz and uptempo drive. Soft Porn, Oil Slick and Bruise Cruise, coming complete with a borderline hardcore scream during its seductively oozing bridge spring to mind, the pulsating racing post punk tempo’s and masterclass levels of sax solos that go off the hook to the praise of a screaming crowd get the heart pumping with joy and euphoria whereas his Holy Waters moments hit the heart with all the quiet feels. With the exception of his live self confessed “sad oldie” Midnight Blue that is.
The most delicate, touching and heart wrenching moment of the evening is the moment Jacob Allen spoke candidly about dedicating tonight’s entire show to the tragic passing away of 15 year old school girl Elianne Andam. “This song is about feeling lost in the world and never finding your way. We want to dedicate this song and the whole performance tonight to the family and friends of Elianne Andam who tragically passed away recently due to unnecessarily losing her life to knife crime” speaks Jacob surrounded by 1,400 silent shadows who stood still and remained quiet for four minutes as a mark of respect. Goosebumps could be felt and a pin drop could be heard, the moment the single handed biggest emotional moment of the evening.
Picking up the show two final times with the sultry tease of a song with Moon Undah Water and (She’s) Just a Phase public love ballads with all the suave and sophistication of a marriage proposal.
Bringing down the curtain on his dream show, Puma Blue is a man of little words tonight for good reason. Because he lets the music do the talking for him. Apart from the occasional softly spoken gentle “Thank you’s” and “Are you okays”, Allen’s classy, exquisite and timeless appeal as a live musician is second to none. Remember when we claimed Puma Blue to be an enigma? Well this is what we meant.
Written By: Katie Conway-Flood