Saturday, 9 March 2013

'Leave me no room for doubt' - Lianne La Havas, Leeds Stylus, 07/03/2013


Shuffling in to the cavernous building that is Leeds Student Union, you’d be hard pressed to believe what will unfold this evening. A venue more used to hosting day-go clubnights for VK wielding 20-somethings, it has exceptional potential as a live music venue. Tonight it will cater less for student boozing, and more for a lecture in class and elegance as it hosts the rescheduled leeds date of Lianne La Havas lap of honour tour of her debut record, Is Your Love Big Enough. Not quite your usual Thursday piss up.

First up is Blackpool native, Rae Morris, an up and coming singer-songwriter who I have been impressed with many times before. With bambi eyes, enormous soft curls and an oh-so-happy-to-be-here humility, she could well be the next muse for a Disney movie. Starting off a little over-zealous, her voice breaking on the high notes, there is no denying the sheer power of her folk-flecked lungs, but is the softer moments, taken from her upcoming new EP, that are far prettier, demonstrating a lot more discipline both in her lyric writing and construction of melodies. Old touring favourite Grow remains the jewel in her crown, a moment where she looks truly immersed, her fingers melding into the keys of the keyboard, her sole accompaniment for the entire set. With the potential to expand into a full live band, it’s not out of the realms of possibility that Morris may one day find herself entering the stage at 9pm rather than leaving.

Clearly both shy by nature, the difference between Rae Morris and Lianne La Havas is that Lianne has  learnt how to turn her star on when its showtime. From the moment she arrives, decked out in a canary yellow shirt with a feathered collar that Brandon Flowers circa 2008 would be proud of, she captures the hearts of everyone in the room through a simple cocktail of good humour, affability and an arsenal of good, clean soul-pop tunes.

Greeting everyone with a huge northern ‘EY UP LEEDS!’ and a dazzling smile, she glides into No Room For Doubt with ease, the one small guitar slip she makes as she sings the line ‘we all make mistakes’ so gloriously apt you almost suspect her of doing it on purpose for comedy value. It underpins quickly what Lianne La Havas is all about – remarkably talented yes, but personal proof that hard work truly prevails. Having only started learning the guitar aged 18, it is clear from the now 23 year olds concentration during certain songs her guitar playing takes an endearing amount of work, giving her whole presentation an air of dedication. Her voice however, is a true natural gift, one that she is completely in control of, pushing it to belting excess on Gone but reining it all the way back in for Everything Everything, a track that displays a range not dissimilar to that of global megastar Beyonces. Her subtle band flatter rather than overaccentuate, adding gentle croons and pianowork that shimmers and shines, oozing sophistication.

With a smile as wide as the stage she graces, Lianne looks overwhelmed each and every time the crowd roar, looking to her band for verification that they are hearing the same thing as her. Visibly gaining confidence from their enthusiasm, she drives the audience through a half clap-half stomp routine during album title track Is Your Love Big Enough that is a little more mature than your usual ‘SCREAM FOR ME LEEEEEDS!’ fodder, but that is Lianne all over – to return to our academic metaphors, she is constantly striving for the first when a 2:1 would be no sweat. Equal parts Jamaican and Greek, she underpins her heritage best here and during Forget, a sassy ‘screw you’ ode to an ex-lover that highlights her as an excellent feminist role model for young girls – enough ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude to mean business, but enough humour and vulnerability to stay relateable and true to her audience.

Ramping up the versatility, the next tune to spill effortlessly from her mouth is an incredibly unique take on Radiohead’s ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’. It attracts bemused looks from most of the crowd who cannot seem to place it, but the few who do spot the tune acknowledge each other with glee. It is here the turning point occurs, as she turns from a girl with a good album to a vocal gymnast, riffing over an extended Don’t Wake Me Up and an impressive run through of old track Empty that displays true soul. Finishing on a double threat of new single Elusive and the whimsical Age, her job is done and dusted, comfortably within 75 minutes. Could she be more professional? It’s doubtable. With a new record on the horizon, we can expect great things from her dissertation year.

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