Sunday night saw the return of British soul singer Lianne La Havas to den Atelier. It’s been a few years since she was last here but from the show of hands we could clearly see she has amassed a whole new fan base since then.
With her debut album “Is Your Love Big Enough?” peaking at number 4 in the UK charts as well as being nominated for an Ivor Novello & Mercury Prize it was of no surprise there would be more pressure on her second record. Could she deliver the same blend of folk and soul on the notorious difficult second album? Well she delivered, and with the new album took on a neo-soul and jazz style, with elements of R&B, reggae and gospel and with this winning blend she has amassed critical acclaim along with a Grammy nomination.
La Havas took to the stage on Sunday night in a bright red jumpsuit with just her guitar and a solitary spotlight as she kicked in with the delicate “No Room for Doubt”. It was a brave if somewhat surprisingly bare song to open with. There is no hiding on such a fragile track but she didn’t need to hide anywhere as her effortlessly smooth vocals undulated between the subtle yet pronounced guitar.
After such an intimate opener she was swiftly joined by her backing band, who were nicely balanced all evening, never overdoing their fills just keeping it all together whilst still adding enough groove and energy to lift the songs when required. Like when “Green & Gold” & “Tokyo” needed that soulful groove to elevate the songs.
If anyone hadn’t already been won over by her effortlessly cool aura and sultry vocals, then they surely were by her radiant infectious smile which was beaming all night long. She clearly had a lot of love for her band and you could understand why as they launched into “Unstoppable” the lead single from her new album. The smooth groove teetered on the fringes of her jazz influences whilst her sweeping uplifting vocals balanced carefully along the rich velvety rhythm guitar.
Throughout the night the band would come and go from the stage leaving La Havas holding the attention of the crowd all on her own, like on “Fairytale” & “Ghosts” where her light breathy vocals would would sit among the the delicate guitar.
As much as those moments had their own appeal she never really showed off her vocals to their true potential on her own, it would take for the band to return before she really let loose and allowed her powerful voice to come to the fore. As on “Midnight” where the upbeat neo-soul groove drove her to belt out the chorus finding the crowd were in fine voice too, singing back to her.
The upbeat and playful “Age” took us on a Parisian stroll with its breezy jazziness before finishing on the rockier riff of “Forget”. The good news for anyone out there who missed the show, she promised new music and new concerts soon. Although with her recent album not even a year old yet I’m not sure how soon that will be. If her next record can continue on this upward trajectory, then you’ll surely have to buy your tickets quick as her reputation is only going to continue to soar.
20/3/16 – den Atelier