After Dry The River at The Fleece earlier in the week, Friday saw another member of the BBC’s Sound Of 2012 long-list stop off in Bristol in the shape of up-and-coming soul singer, Lianne La Havas playing The Trinity Centre.
Formerly a church with seating for a congregation of over 2,000, Trinity has, like many of Bristol’s large church buildings, been through a number of incarnations since the congregation dwindled to the point that they could no longer maintain it back in 60s. Through all the iterations since then, it’s focus has been as a community arts centre and in its current form, it is one of the best of Bristol’s larger gig venues. The wikipedia page is worth a read for a little local history.
Arriving a little later than I’d planned, the crowd had already been warmed up, in every sense, by tonight’s support, singing violinist Marques Toliver, and as young Miss La Havas took to the stage, alone initially, the bubbling over of the crowd’s anticipation suggested that a number of people had been looking forward to this opening stop of this, her first substantial tour.
Kicking off with quiet and simple soul number No Room For Doubt, the crowd were largely instantly mesmerised and quietened. I say largely because there was one rather enthusiastic lumberjack (I’m assuming from his headgear) near me who insisted on singing along at a volume that his vocal abilities could not match. Fortunately his girlfriend was on hand to record these precious moments on her phone, with enthusiastic commentary – a short, low-fi documentary treat that I’m sure all their friends have enjoyed reliving subsequently on Facebook!
After completing the first song on her own, to a whooping reception from the crowd (and a certain tree surgeon), Lianne was joined by a band of three young men (who, judging from the unpublishable comments of the girls to my right, were particularly aesthetically pleasing) for a set that showed off both her developed song-writing skills – after signing her record contract she spent two years just working on her writing – and her exceptional voice that ranges from quiet huskiness to impassioned shouts, all while maintaining clarity and pitch.
Musical highlights from this middle part of the set were the funky, shouty Forget – “a song about feelings of anger, dedicated to my ex-boyfriend” – Empty, which starts all Norah Jonesy but builds to a much more interesting conclusion and Age, with lyrics that the girls in the audience seemed to enjoy a bit too much! As she plays her way through a few more songs, she comes across endearingly humble and a little bit stunned by just how much enthusiasm there is in the room being directed at her – “I can’t believe this is my job”, she says rather charmingly at one point.
Joined once again by her good-looking band, the set concludes with the song that completes the story of the ex-boyfriend, Gone, an almost poppy diva-ish song – definitely not as good as Forget, but she just about pulls it off with a confident yet vulnerable delivery – and then upcoming single Is Your Love Big Enough, which was apparently being filmed for the video, although I couldn’t spot any cameras from where I was standing, and included an old-school “break it down”-style band introduction where each member got to play a mini-solo, which is always nice!
Overall, this was a good gig from a very talented singer-songwriter and band who has done an excellent job of updating some classic sounds for the 21st century but for me there was a bit too much retreading of old musical ground in some songs and it was really where her songs went beyond the tradition they’re built on that they became most interesting.