On April 12, the scene outside of the 930 Club past 7:30 was a sight to behold by the sheer amount of people already waiting in line to see UK soul singer, Lianne La Havas. The line stretched far down the street and curled the corner, unfurling nearly to the next street, people arriving extra early to make the 8 pm door opening. The crowd was buzzing with anticipation to see this much hyped artist and their enthusiasm had become infectious.
Once doors opened, the line languidly made its way in, pausing to get drinks or food while knowing that La Havas wouldn’t take the stage until much later. One of the opening acts had just started; local visual and spoken word artist, Rob Gibsun, and Saidu Tejan-Thomas fired up the crowd with powerful, rhythmic slam poetry. Rife with modern day references and Kanye West shout-outs, this pair kept the audience captive with their meaningful poems and palpable energy. They did a good job raising the crowd’s spirits and getting them more excited for the main act.
Another opening act soon followed, however not as exciting and original as the slam poets. Jamie N. Commons, a blues rocker also hailing from the UK, attempted to keep the crowd going by playing a set that featured tracks from his debut EP. Commons’ voice was gruff and smoky with all the qualities of a blues singer and the four other members of his band played perfectly in tune. There wasn’t anything particularly memorable about his music or performance; it was formulaic and there was sparse interaction between Commons and the audience. However, the audience was generous, politely clapping after every song but it was clear that they were unfamiliar with him.
La Havas did not come on stage until 10 and by then, the crowd was absolutely pulsing with optimism; it seemed that everyone loved her debut album and had heard good things about her concerts. When the long-awaited chanteuse finally stepped onto the stage, people erupted in a frenzy of applause and shouts. La Havas smiled brightly and easily at the audience as she picked up a black electric guitar and began her set. She wore a long black dress and her accessories included a black belt cinched at the waist and a simple, gold necklace. With her remarkable vocals and detailed guitar playing, she had the crowd completely enraptured. When she played her title track, “Is Your Love Big Enough?” everyone sang along and followed the foot-stomping, hand-clapping pattern she had patiently set up. She sung “They Could Be Wrong” with all the tenderness of a hopeful lover, her voice cracking and smoothing over notes when appropriate. When she sung the more rock-influenced song, “Forget”, she screamed the chorus without going pitchy, her vocal control even more impressive in a song dominated by anger. Of course she was called back for an encore and finished the show with the delightfully conflicted song, “Age”, which left the audience begging for one more but regrettably, she had played the entirety of her album. Throughout the show, La Havas was gracious, humble, and genuine. When she got off stage, she took the time to sneak to the side of the stage to say hi to a few fans before rushing off and sincerely apologizing about not being able to stay longer because she had to rush off to Atlanta for her next show.
Not only was the show entertaining, it was also musically satisfying as La Havas sang and played guitar with equal amounts of talent. Her voice is a gem and it was a pleasure being reassured that true vocal skill had not been lost in the muck of technology. Her second album and next US tour will be greatly anticipated.