Live Review: Lianna La Havas

 O2 ABC – 9/12

Lianne La Havas’ break was an appearance on ‘Later… with Jools Holland’ in October 2011; she performed ‘Age’ solo in a cupcake-wrapper white dress and, despite the song’s subject matter, couldn’t have looked more angelic. Just over 4 years later she strides onstage at the ABC to rapturous applause, exuding power, confidence and general badassery.

She plays bass on the set’s opener, current single ‘Green & Gold’, before switching to a slick black Epiphone for a slowed-down version of ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’ and ‘Au Cinéma’ (with a segment of Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ elegantly slotted in the middle).  Her stage chat leaves a bit to be desired for someone with so much to say in her music, but she does seem genuinely overwhelmed by the Glaswegian response.

Next is the most striking image of the night: she ditches the guitar to groove in place for Blood’s lead single ‘What You Don’t Do’; film this gig with a sepia filter and fuzzy audio and she could easily pass for some sort of classic R&B diva a la Nina Simone or Billie Holiday.  The songs are more dramatic live: the ballads more obviously ballads, the funkier tunes more nuanced and spread out – at least 2 of her 5-piece band must have sold their souls for their musicianship.

 As iconic as she’s able to make herself appear, it’s her fingerpicked guitar songs that make the most impact.  This particular reviewer has been in a few very quiet audiences before – alt-J’s ‘The Ripe and Ruin’ tends to expose the odd dropped pin – but during a solo ‘No Room For Doubt’ everyone seems to be holding their breath, Lianne pausing for seconds at a time and savouring having one of Glasgow’s biggest venues wrapped around her finger.

Another highlight is the album’s first single ‘Unstoppable’, a track which jazzily swaggers along with the utmost self-assurance and style, with lighting to match – lighting that can only really described by the word ‘champagne’ – that dances over the tropical plant at the back of the stage.  Lianne La Havas’s transformation from promising young singer-songwriter to still-young R&B giant has taken less than 5 years, and she’s not showing any signs of slowing down yet.

[Ciaran McQueen]

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