Lianne La Havas sparkled as she brought her US tour to a close with a sold out performance in downtown Nashville last night with a set list drawing largely from her debut album Is Your Love Big Enough? and a couple of covers mixed in for good measure.
Chanteuse is annoyingly overused in music writing, so much so I'm reluctant to invoke it but La Havas is such a pure embodiment of the idea on record and was so again last night on stage. She is a woman with a precious, endearing mix of youthful charm and vitality whose life has perhaps seen a bit too much for such a tender age. She has a gift for exploring and expressing those experiences in her songs and the ability to present them and connect them with her audience.
She didn't make me wait long to hear my favorite song from her album as "Au Cinéma" was slotted second following a solo electric performance of "No Room For Doubt." It's a beautifully written song built on a melody that takes unexpected turns musically and vocally with lyrics that express romance and coming of age with a sophisticated literary quality. She and her bandmates performed it flawlessly.
She interacted with the crowd between songs and turned the title track into an audience participation number, asking us to stamp and clap the percussion. It's a polyrhythmic number and asked for more coordination than I possess to properly execute but I managed, in part, because I didn't have to try and sing while executing the moves.
"Forget" kicked off one of the more memorable portions of the evening. It's an aggressive kiss off with an edgy guitar riff and a hard rhythm that once again brought the audience into play. This was followed by a song I should have picked up on but didn't until I overheard an audience member clue us in: Radiohead's "Weird Fishes" from In Rainbows. La Havas turned me onto the British band Everything Everything via her Twitter feed but I wouldn't have expected a Radiohead cover and would never have guessed if she were to undertake such a thing that "Fishes" would be the one she'd select. This two-song suite in the middle of the show was another high point.
The evening wasn't perfect as there were a few audible mistakes and she was done the disservice of a technical glitch by the sound team within the first 20 seconds of the evening. She came on stage alone with just her electric guitar and what began as a moving performance of "No Room For Doubt" when the sound guy accidentally cut in with house music. The audience signaled their disapproval of the interruption but La Havas was unfazed. She laughed it off and began again with no loss of power or poise. There were also a few extended pauses as she tried to get and keep her guitars in tune and moments where her voice felt strained and thin, the likely result of a string of shows in a compressed time span.
She sang a gorgeous rendition of Dolly Parton's "Bargain Store" and despite one flub of the lyrics that embarrassed her, it felt completely natural coming from her and I hope she one day releases a version of it. It was a surprise, with the first hour of the show being broadcast live on Nashville's Lightning 100, she chose to hold her current single "Elusive" until the encore when the broadcast had ended but it was magical and worth the wait.
She concluded the show and tour with the playful "Age," a song that seems to have already become a fan favorite. It was clear the end of her first headlining US tour was on her mind during the encore and she seemed alternately reluctant and eager to bring to an end this important chapter of a career on the rise. Is Your Love Big Enough? is as fresh and moving today as it was when I first heard it last year and I could have listened to her sing for another hour but she left the stage promising to return soon with a new album and a roomful of us eager for just that.
- No Room For Doubt
- Au Cinéma
- Everything Everything
- Is Your Love Big Enough?
- Tease Me
- Weird Fishes (Radiohead cover)
- They Could Be Wrong
- Lost & Found
- Don't Wake Me Up
- Bargain Store (Dolly Parton cover)