Laura Mvula @ Albert Hall, Manchester

Laura Mvula @ Albert Hall, Manchester

With an evening of firsts, skillful, soulful, songstress Laura Mvula makes a return to Manchester to play at the Albert Hall with a dazzling and intense performance. 

Words: Anthony Firmin. Photos: Cai Dixon.

There is a first time for everything and I never expected to see rows of seats in the main floor of Manchester’s Albert Hall and with a decidedly small audience this evening most of the balcony is closed off too.  As a consequence the sound is rather echoey as reverberates around this stunning venue.

Opening this evening is Olivier St. Louis and is singing I Couldn’t Care Less… but I don’t think he means it with this crowd as the reception he is receiving is warm from the audience on this bitterly cold and wet Manchester evening.   It turns out this song is a reference to a job washing dishes.

This three piece is playing a fusion of soul, jazz, rock and are funking it right up, adding to this is a bass drum sound that is as solid as a 20 ton block of concrete and that bass drum rises into the air with every beat.  The bass player is featured too, laying down some serious grooves on Nobody Move and Ship Is Going Down shows he has the blood of Curtis Mayfield.  I so seriously impressed that during the interval I purchased and downloaded his Black Music EP to listen to on the way home, another first!

After Laura Mvula’s appearance at Gorilla back in April I am surprised to see her back so soon and she starts of her show singing hidden from the audience allowing her band to take the spotlight momentarily.   The set is sheer class from beginning to end, from Let Me Fall with it’s 80’s vibe is about it being okay to fail through to the encore Be My Husband

Mvula is encouraging the audience to dance but everyone remains seated as, although it is magnificent, Flying Without You is hardly danceable.  The slow, mournful and reflective Sing to the Moon gives me goosebumps as it does everytime I hear it.

Solo, a remarkable Father Father showcases Mvula’s fine voice, and is followed by an acapella Diamonds, the intensity of which brings tears to the eyes of the lady sat next to me.  Mvula is in talkative mood and promises Show Me Love is the last breakup song, She is the first song she ever wrote and both are played are impeccably, but the set hits a high and ends with her dance hit Phenomenal Woman as is evidenced by the amount of noise this small crowd is making.

This is an intense performance with an dazzling light show but it was only after the lights went up that I realise she hadn’t played her biggest and best known song, Green Garden.  A quick peak at the set list and simply wasn’t a consideration.  Another first?

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SONDER Festival Report - Saturday