Photos (c) Paul Lippiatt
An incredibly emotional performance which saw La Havas alone on stage and me in floods of tears
From early on, the front of stage was already lined by the determined and the O2 was alive with an eager hum. Fresh with the excitement of her Grammy nomination, which it seems from her twitter, everyone knew about before Lianne La Havas, the audience were expecting big things from the evening. They weren’t to be disappointed.
Paradise flowers back the stage; a simple but beautiful addition to the set-up which echoes the front cover of La Havas’ latest album, ‘Blood’. The now, Best Urban Contemporary Album nominee has led La Havas out from the safety of her guitar and seen her employ a larger band, giving her the freedom to explore. ‘Blood’ is an amalgamation of everything from soft jazz and R&B to bursts of electronic and even metal; it is an album of reflection on what makes LA Havas the artist and the woman that she is, and it uses every tool in the box.
The opening act, Roseau began without introduction, filling the room with base and echoing electronica. For a little while she had to compete with the hubbub of an excitable crowd, but a few tracks in, everyone quietened to hear the unique talent that was before them. She opened with the title track from her album, ‘Salt – an ambient and intimate storyteller carrying themes of a devastating heartbreak. A deep, individual and bold experimental sound – Roseau carries a similar strength to La Havas and by her final track ‘Accelerate’, she had the whole crowd captured.
There was a bit of a wait between Roseau and La Havas’ set, the crowd building with anticipation every time a crew member set foot on the stage, and at this point the O2 was full to the brim. When La Havas entered in stunning all-white the crowd erupted with screams of “I love you!” and it was clearly worth the wait. Beginning with one of her new tracks ‘Green and Gold’ La Havas looked happy and confident, voice soaring effortlessly at every height.
Her first song without guitar was an audience favourite ‘What You Don’t Do’ and La Havas rocked it. Transitions between tracks were made quick and simple and moved from the old to the new without a glitch. At times La Havas would break briefly to speak to the crowd, telling Bristol how grateful she was for the support and receiving marriage proposals in return. Although not often; these breaks also helped bring different tempos together seamlessly.
Highlights of the night included ‘No Room For Doubt’, an incredibly emotional performance which saw La Havas alone on stage and me in floods of tears; ‘Lost and Found’ which had the whole audience singing along and ‘Never Get Enough’ which in complete contrast drops into a near-metal number and powered some serious head-banging in the crowd. La Havas finished with ‘Tokyo’ but everyone wanted more. Claps and screams turned into an audience of feet drumming the floor and a very grateful and smiley La Havas returned for two final songs – ‘Gone’, which had an overflowing O2 in perfect silence and yes, me in tears again, and the brilliant ‘Forget’.
La Havas had the whole Academy in her hands. Her voice never faltered, every breath was perfectly placed and every song was performed with energy and emotion. The night exceeded already high expectations and I feel proved her every bit worthy of the Grammy she has been nominated for. A must see; in a word – incredible.
Check out ‘No Room for Doubt’ right here: