There are some musicians that are natural performers from the get-go; 23-year-old Lianne La Havas is one of these elusive creatures. In under a year since the release of her debut, Is Your Love Big Enough?, the British La Havas is filling two nights at Los Angeles’ El Rey Theatre—an already impressive feat if it were just one night, which was initially the case as the second night was added due to high demand.
Starting the evening out with just herself and a guitar, the stylish and hair-istically imposing La Havas has her worshipful audience captive in a breath-catching space. The kind of space where the slightest move might throw off the fragile yet strong tension between performer and spectator. There is not the slightest whiff of worry from La Havas—solid in sky-high heels—whose acoustic rendition of “No Room For Doubt” establishes her as the one in charge of the evening.
La Havas’ full band emerges from the shadows for the second song, saucy album standout “Au Cinema.” Already she has the crowd participating in a clap-along—which continues for a large portion of the show. Using the audience as a kickdrum, La Havas has them stamping their feet as well as providing the chorus for the retro-futuristic “Forget.” This doesn’t take anything away from her superb band, though, including backing vocalist Rhianna whose formidable support gives La Havas’ voice even more perspective.
La Havas holds her own on the guitar, her skills on that instrument rivaled only by her exceptional vocal talent. In the crowd, Is Your Love Big Enough? producer, Aqualung’s Matt Hales, nods his approval, echoed by multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter Sam Sparro.
It was a regular love-and-heartbreak fest all evening. La Havas’ breezy, neo-soul-pop vocals are the beacon for the entire experience, hitting a high note when she covers Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes”—which as odd of a choice as it is, works in all its big stadium glory. Telling the occasional story about the songs, which are autobiographical and betray far too many doomed relationships for such a young person, La Havas ends as she started, on her own with her guitar, tearing through the painfully revealing “Age.”
Looking like a teenager but talking like she’s your older auntie, La Havas is imminently likeable. Commanding a big presence for a relatively little girl, she tosses out regular endearments to the crowd—to specific individuals, to the city of Los Angeles and to the state of California, including brandishing the state flag at one point. The same sentiments are tossed back to her, broadening the confident musician’s smile even further. If the gaggle of girls waiting to meet La Havas two hours after the show’s ending is any indication, she has made her impact.
Catch Lianne La Havas on tour:
3/29/13 Boulder, CO @ Fox Theater
3/31/13 Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theater
4/1/13 Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
4/2/13 Detroit, MI @ Magic Mag
4/4/13 Toronto, ON @ Opera House
4/5/13 Montreal, QC @ Corona
4/6/13 Boston, MA @ The Sinclair
4/7/13 Philadelphia, PA @ World Café Live
4/9/13 New York, NY @ Webster Hall
4/10/13 Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall Of Williamsburg
4/12/13 Washington, DC @ 930 Club
4/13/13 Atlanta, GA @ The Loft
4/14/13 Nashville, TN @ 3rd and Lindsley