Live Review Lianne La Havas, Hackney Round Chapel, London 14th June 2016

Lianne La Havas, Hackney Round Chapel, London

These stripped back songs serve as reminder of why it’s so easy to fall in love with her in the first place

Tonight, Lianne La Havas’ set at Hackney Round Chapel is completely solo. While her full-band pop songs are a joy, these stripped back versions of her songs, framed by the echo of the Round Chapel, serve as reminder of why it’s so easy to fall in love with her in the first place. They’re great songs, but this evening they’re not just great; we’re witnessing something really special.

Right from opener ‘Au Cinema’, a soft song without any showy-offy bits, her vocals are spine-tingingly good. With her beautiful voice and exceptional guitar work literally the only things going on, you can hear every musical decision she makes. Each musical accent, every ad-libbed ornament, even the odd glottal stop - everything is audible, and her musicality shines through. Her vocal melodies feel as expressive as the words that decorate them too, and it honestly never feels like showing off when she belts out a bigger note, as songs like ‘Unstoppable’ and ‘Midnight’ do occasionally call for. Elsewhere, ’Lost And Found’ bears a sorrow which builds to a climax that has the power to bring “certain audience members” to tears. Ahem.

Her first emotional break of the main set, a cover of ‘I Say A Little Prayer’, doesn’t feel remotely like breaking the spell she’s built up. Rather, it’s a natural transition into the possibility that some of these songs are fun too. And she does want her audience to have fun, encouraging them to sing the backing vocals, and using them as her percussion section by starting stamp-click and clapping rhythms in other songs. Naturally, hers is an audience unfazed by the ambitiousness of the one she starts for ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’ Hers is an infectious and inspiring voice that it feels almost impossible not to sing along with at times. The gospel-esque ’Midnight’ that closes the main set is utterly magical, which is also this evening in a nutshell, really. Utterly magical.

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Photos: Robin Pope.

Lianne La Havas will play Citadel (17th July), where DIY is an official media partner. Tickets are on sale now. Visit diymag.com/presents for more information.