Live Review

Lianne La Havas, Somerset House, London

You can tell when she’s performing how much it means that she’s doing what she’s doing: creating something exceptional.

When Lianne La Havas appeared on Later… With Jools Holland in October 2011, she unquestionably stole the show. Her ease on stage, her musicality and effortless talent make her a different kind of live performer from the norm; we expect a slightly less accurate version of what we’ve heard on record, compensated for by frantic movement, pained faces, the occasional shriek. But La Havas is flawless; not a note out of place, no bum notes, no dodges, swerves, or chickening out of ‘the high bits’.

The setting tonight is pretty special: Somerset House’s main square on a balmy summer evening, bright blue skies, posh drinks, plenty of space, and the sort of gentle crowd you might expect at this sort of gig. La Havas walks on stage in a spangly gold crop top and a red PVC skirt; it’s 30 degrees. She addresses the skirt issue early on when, having bent down and wiggled around a bit, she said, ‘If you want to know what I was doing just then… well… Let’s just say, I got this skirt on using talcum powder.’ This is what makes La Havas special; part of the reason her Later… performance was so popular was that her song ‘Age’ is so funny. And actually funny, too, as well as being a brilliant musical creation. Her personality is so deeply interred in the music she writes that it’s a relief when she talks between songs and she’s the same as on the record. Self-effacing, unselfconscious, witty, irreverent - she’s a pleasure to watch.

She opens her set with an understated, solo performance of ‘No Room for Doubt’. ‘Elusive’ provides a calm antidote to the angry roar of ‘Forget’, which the audience compliantly spit out in unison. La Havas’ band then leave the stage for her to perform some solo songs, including ‘Age’, which predictably leaves everyone silently staring. Her cover of Radiohead’s ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’ causes some to look at each other confusedly - ‘This one’s not on the album, is it?’ -, but it proves a set highlight; the climax of the song performed in beautiful, scrunchy, pitch perfect a cappella. There are some other fitting tributes and homages: ‘Bob Marley’s ‘Jammin”, Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye’ and a full Erykah Badu quotation.

La Havas has grown up surrounded by a wide variety of musical influences, and you can tell when she’s performing how much it means that she’s doing what she’s doing: creating something exceptional.

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