Somewhere in the midst of touring her first album, and writing her second, Lianne La Havas’s popularity ballooned. At Brixton Academy, it was stretched to humongous proportions. “I’m trying very hard to remain calm,” La Havas whispered, as she gazed out at the thousands of faces that had assembled before her. Yet, not even the shrieks and exclamations of affection disrupted the singer from putting on a confident, spirited show to please more than her devotees.
A consummate host – even when faced with some 4,500-plus guests, La Havas’s set was scattered with crowd-pleasing moments. She picked her way through a warm-up of favourites from debut album, Is Your Love Big Enough?, including the title track and ‘Au Cinéma’ interwoven with a verse from Pharrell’s ‘Happy’, as cool as you like.
Freed, momentarily, from her the first of her many guitars, La Havas took off with a flourishing rendition of ‘What You Don’t Do’. She clicked her fingers and swayed her hips to its juicy pop melody, the sight of which was enhanced further still by her stunning full-length, jewel-covered dress shimmering in the light. The performance only grew more plutonic from there, Blood’s soulful lead single, ‘Unstoppable’, finishing with a grandiose nova, before she soared sky-high on the melodic acoustics of ‘Midnight’.
The gritty distortion of ‘Never Get Enough’ is one of the more unusual songs in the repertoire of a singer who’s known more the unfathomable delicacy and beauty of ‘No Room for Doubt’ – which remained exactly that when she performed it on this occasion. However, watching La Havas manoeuvre between mics, changing her flow to weave in and out of the buffeting rock thunderbolts that contrast with its harmonic base, was impressive. And her high notes feel as though they could hit you from a mile away.
The audience was enthusiastic to the point of unruly – even disturbing the aching sorrow of ‘Gone’ during La Havs’s encore. Nonetheless, their enthusiasm was responsible for the night’s biggest highlights. Confessional ditty, ‘Age’, sparked up a chorus of voices bold enough for La Havas to invite the audience to take over the penultimate choruses, while she strummed along. “You can sing with me any day,” she beamed. Better still, rhubarbing album track ‘Grow’ became a colossal moment of audience participation, as voices sang out “turn up for this love”, while La Havas and her band responded with rhythmic, nature energy. Displaying a gratitude that escapes many performers who reach her status (she took a whole five minutes to thank everyone, from her band and crew, to the venue staff and her supporting acts, and, of course, her audience), it’s little wonder that so many long to be in the company of this shining star.
Green & Gold
Is Your Love Big Enough?
Au Cinema (with a verse of Pharrell William’s ‘Happy’)
What You Don’t Do
Wonderful (duet with Keenan O’Meara)
No Room for Doubt
Lost & Found
Elusive (Scott Matthew cover)
Never Get Enough
Image: Aaron Lee