Review by Clare Knight
01/05/13 Islington Assembly Hall
Last night was the first time I had been to a gig at Islington Assembly Hall and despite it being smaller than I had expected it was packed full of people eagerly waiting to see the much talked about Laura Mvula perform. The sold out show gave a good indication that she is a popular lady and after watching her performance I can confirm that she is one hell of a talented musician.
Support came from soul singer songwriter Ady Suleiman and was a nice easy introduction to the musical vibe of the evening. A number of audience members were sitting on the floor at this point, quietly enjoying the music whilst chatting and drinking. (I have noticed that this is becoming a common thing at venues… not sure how it makes the support acts feel though!) After a quick change over, Laura Mvula graciously took the stage with her small orchestra of a band.
Like The Morning Dew was near the beginning of the set and was the song that definitely grabbed everyone’s attention. If anyone was talking at that point, she sure shut them up! All that was needed was the incredible vocal harmony intro to the song. It was the point that I realised that she wasn’t just an artist hyped up by industry big wigs; there was a reason she was being talked about so much. Mvula took a moment in between songs to introduce the band that consisted of keys, drums, double bass, cello, violin and harp with each musician singing perfect harmonies as well. It transpired that within the talented band were Mvula’s siblings – quite the talented family!
The set was brought down for a more intimate feel when Father Father and Diamonds were performed. The audience remained respectfully quiet during the songs, allowing Mvula’s voice to echo around the tall room. The moments when her vocals were most exposed were the times when she really shined. Mvula has an effortlessly stunning voice and is humble and likeable on stage and appeared to be at ease with on stage banter with the crowd. She encouraged crowd participation when performing Is There Anybody Out There? and the crowd did not let her down, cheering and whistling in all the right places. However, the song many of the crowd were waiting for was Green Garden and according to Mvula, “is the one that’s been annoying you on the radio”. It is also the song that her three year old Goddaughter said was boring! Mvula continued, “although it hurt… I’m going to play it anyway!” which prompted huge cheers from the crowd.
The last song of the set was an upbeat track with a African style beat called That’s Alright. Mvula actively encouraged the crowd to dance up on stage if they felt like it, to which the crowd laughed and she responded “I’m being serious”. You don’t need much encouragement when you hear this song to move even just a little bit, however I did witness two drunk girls trying to convince a bouncer that they were allowed to dance on stage but he wasn’t having any of it!
It was obvious that the crowd would cheer for an encore and that is what they did, along with deafening foot stamping and whistling. It didn’t take long for Mvula to humbly return to stage with her brother on cello for one last song. If you were not won over by the original set then the encore would definitely have done it for you. She performed a beautiful arrangement of Human Nature by Michael Jackson using cello for accompaniment. It was obvious that she was fully embracing and enjoying her first headline tour. Although the show was a little shorter than I would have liked at under an hour, it was full of quality music with talented musicians. The cliché of quality, not quantity was definitely the case last night and that was fine by me.