As the lights slowly dimmed on the crowd of the ABC for Lianne La Havas to step on stage a quite beautifully overflowing vase of flowers, centre stage, glowed thanks to a combination of elegant lighting and creative stage curation. This seemed an incredibly fitting metaphor for everything about Lianne La Havas and this show especially.
La Havas is possibly one of the most underrated artists of the past few years, an opinion validated by the eclectic and overtly impressive nature of her set. Early in the show it became quite clear that there was something missing, her mini-orchestra including a string and brass section, used to bring an exquisite layered grandeur to her latest album Blood, however here it felt a decision well made. The ABC is not the largest of venues with hardly the biggest stage so practically space was always going to be an issue, but the lack of instruments also created an opportunity to embrace an almost tangibly intimate atmosphere.
Early songs in the set created a light buzz around the venue. Blood’s single ‘Green and Gold’ opened the show with La Havas displaying exactly what makes her one of the most listenable voices in music right now. Through the early verse and choruses remaining mostly within her soothing, hushed register before tearing the roof off the ABC in the 2nd verse in full voice. La Havas then lifted the fun factor with a surprisingly early performance of ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’. This jovial atmosphere continued as she worked in a cover of Pharell’s 2014 smash hit ‘Happy’ into ‘Au Cinema’ before once again working her outstanding upper register in “What You Don’t Do”.
The intimacy of the performance was first truly shown when her band left stage and La Havas was left on stage with just a guitar and a fittingly simple handful of light beams shining from above. The audience drew silent as the emotionally heavy yet softly sung ‘Wonderful’ echoed. La Havas then took a moment to describe how at this stage of the gig last time she visited the ABC she had a rather embarrassing incident as a result of a pair of optimistically large healed shoes. There was no such lack of grace here though as once again the more gentle side to her dynamic voice had the audience mesmerised with ‘No Room For Doubt’. La Havas had the audience in the palm of her hand, ‘Ghost’ and ‘Lost and Found’ had many swaying in perfect timing while others just focused on the deeply honest lyrics as she sang about a former lover teaching her to “truly hate (herself)”. A gorgeous ballad that was beyond gripping helped again by her trusty band.
The atmosphere of the night had firmly been established. The haze and confusion associated with most heavy Glasgow nights was exchanged for an extended haze and confusion developed through thick emotional depth and a unique tight connection with her audience.
La Havas played a subtly funky ‘Unstoppable’ before having the whole venue join her as backing vocalists for ‘Grow’ as hundreds of voices singing “turn up for this love” created a platform for her voice to run riot in the bridge and chorus.
As the night came close to an end La Havas kept with the now beat heavy switch up of ‘Midnight’ and a wonderfully rhythmic version of Scott Matthew’s ‘Elusive’, before taking the stage on her own for a more light hearted tune in ‘Age’. Using ‘Age’ as an opportunity to comically question her own taste in the opposite sex and provoke a handful or amusing responses from the crowd. There was yet again another switch up as possibly the heaviest song in her repertoire ‘Never Get Enough’ rocked the crowd. Audience members feet were stomping and thee song gave another opportunity for La Havas to test the dynamism of her voice with the juxta-position of the mellow verse and distorted aggressive chorus.
‘Tokyo’ closed the set before La Havas couldn’t resist yet another pluck at the emotional heart strings. Joined by a piano accompaniment, ‘Gone’, described her “last goodbye” to a former lover, questioning his honesty, before it all aside for her aptly titled hit song ‘Forget’. Ending the night with a strong groove, endless vocal variation and a personal invitation from the lady herself to have a last dance.
The way that La Havas approached the gig throughout was magnificent. Combining her more up-tempo funk laden hits with real heart wrenching soulful ballads, ably balancing enough hip swaying rhythm heavy hits to make the real intimate and honest moments even more touching. Over this year specifically she has become a truly stand out performer and the way that her set list and general on stage show can develop is, at this rate, is scarily immeasurable.