Dressed casually in black, you would be forgiven for thinking that SWV had made a low key come back. But, as soon as Sisters With Voices opened their mouths, they reminded the audience just how many keys they could hit.

SWV

From L to R: Leanne 'Lelee' Lyons, Cheryl 'Coko' Gamble and Tamara 'Taj' Johnson-George

In an age where artists are judged on how dramatic their stage design is, SWV went back to basics relying on sheer talent to please the crowd. From the outset they had us in the palm of their hands turning up the heat with hits such as You’re The One and I’m So Into You, and slowing things down with Rain. But with the stools out, there was one ballad that they knew the audience was yearning for ­– Weak – their most requested song.

We all sang along to the eighteen-year-old cut, which sounded as fresh as ever. But after 45 minutes, SWV had departed the stage with all too brief a set. The compere announced that they had another gig to attend but this excuse riled the crowd. Our outrage was appeased when they returned to deliver a sizzling rendition of Patti Labelle’s If Only You Knew – a cover slated for their forthcoming album.

The trio shone and none brighter than Coko whose vocals are electrifying. Despite no live band and a set absent of popular hits such as Can We, Right Here and Downtown, after a seventeen-year hiatus from the UK, SWV proved they were worth the wait.

The audience didn’t have to wait long for Faith Evans, seventeen minutes to be precise. Dressed in a metallic silver skirt, leather jacket and black ankle boots, Evans looked the part. She wasted no time in demonstrating her vocal prowess with You Used To Love Me. After one song, it was clear the wardrobe would not make it through the night and it was off with her bracelet.

Evans had brought her own jewels to glisten on this cold night with her four-piece band and DJ Hurricane. Together, they took us through a tour de force of R&B classics such as Soon As I get Home, where Evans’ voice floated. Momentarily she landed between songs to express her amazement at having ‘touched peoples lives – having been away for five years’…or her gratitude at being nominated for a Grammy for her new album Something About Faith, or confessing to being corny!

Highly esteemed, singer-songwriter Evans, who is due to play Florence Ballard in a biopic about the late singers life while in The Supremes, ripped through her back catalogue with up-tempo numbers such as You Gets No Love keeping the audience moving, that is until Evans’ announced that DJ Hurricane had played the wrong track. Being the professional she is, she kept things moving through the ‘technical difficulties’.

Like light and shade, Evan’s interspersed through tempos slipping back to balladry with I Love You before launching into Dance. Having worked up a sweat, she briefly left the stage while DJ Hurricane mixed a medley of her late husband Biggie’s hits including Juicy and One More Chance.

Tribute made, Evans re-emerged to further fan the flames of entertainment, as bright as her hair, which her DJ had lit, with Burnin’ Up. Again she doused the fiery energy with the icy cool slow jams. Funk was injected with Mesmerised, but again DJ Hurricane caused a minor storm when he played the wrong version of the instrumental.

Faith Evans

Faith Evans

Such mishaps made me wonder why a voice as strong as Evan’s required a live band and a DJ, however, straddling hip-hop and R&B as she does, it became clear what value each added. Doing all of her own pre-recorded harmonies, Evans’ expressed her versatility on cuts including Tru Love.

With such a large back catalogue she could not please everyone and there was little time for requests for classics such as Caramel Kisses. There was time for Again, which Evans introduced by acknowledging that she had had her share of ups and downs.

The finale was always going to be Love Like This. Evans’ got down to this club smash, as she had throughout the night. Promising to return on tour possibly with Keyshia Cole, Evans ensured that whether you like your music fast or slow, she delivered.

SWV and Faith Evans play Manchester Academy on 10 December.

The UK Corner covers urban entertainment from a British perspective and is written by Fiona McKinson. She is a freelance journalist and creative writer based in London. Contact her at [email protected]