Few artists could create such silence by doing so little in a space so grand. As the lights fade to black inside the Royal Albert Hall, Lianne La Havas – armed with a guitar, in a floor length dress, looking every part a princess and master musician – tip toes through the shadows to deliver the first few whispers of ‘No Room For Doubt’. Her act is a lesson in blending funk with class, as she channels the greats with her own tales of childhood and heartache; nothing new, but something timeless.
‘Green And Gold’ from last year’s Blood brings a little beat to the set, with the title track from her debut album, Is Your Love Big Enough?, carrying it through, even commanding a clap-along from the audience. Although often letting the stark, breathy notes take centre stage, when Lianne showcases the full range and power of her voice it’s enough to take the crowd’s breath away. There’s a gasp as the first notes of ‘Lost & Found’ play, while the vocal acrobatics during ‘Tokyo’ show how they can be done tastefully.
“I have a surprise for you,” the South London raised star teases the crowd, and although she’s guested on releases by Prince, alt-j and Rudimental, she’s joined on stage by her first collaborators, The Norbury Manor Celeste Choir, whose haunting harmonies add texture to ‘Don’t Wake Me Up’ and ‘Unstoppable’. Following sections that see Lianne alone in the spotlight (‘Age’ is black & white, Ella Fitzgerald-like storytelling), she covers ‘I Say A Little Prayer For You’ before closing with ‘Forget’, describing it as the one song of hers that should get the room on their feet – and it does.
Blood was influenced by a trip to Jamaica to rediscover her roots (particularly noticeable on ‘Midnight’), but it’s clear that Lianne’s heart belongs to London; from Norbury to Kensington via Kingston, Jamaica, and the thanks to those who attended are repeated over and over. “Wasn’t it kind of wonderful?” she sung earlier in the set – it’s rare you’d find anyone there who’d disagree.