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Lianne La Havas

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill - 12th March, 2016

Written By Sophie Harper

I think I first fell in love with the cool overtones of Lianne La Havas's smoky voice around four years ago – just following the release of her debut album 'Is Your Love Big Enough?', but to my disservice I had never gotten round to seeing her perform live. That was until she decided to pay a visit to our neighbours at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill.

Running ever so slightly behind, due to electro support act Tokio finishing his set a little over time, the familiar chords of La Havas' hit 'No Room For Doubt' streamed through the speakers as she walked on playing her guitar in that gentle manner akin to the song's accompanying music video.

Having won the crowd over already, she chatted a little about loving the Bexhill vibe before breaking into 'Green and Gold' – a track about her childhood from the latest album 'Blood', which verged almost on a jazz number; made more so with a band playing behind her.

Blasting out the title track from her debut album, La Havas and her bearded trio of musicians, oh and not forgetting her very talented backing vocalist Frida (who isn't bearded), it looked as though everyone had settled into the gig nicely: the band were having a whale of a time on stage and there was even a little audience participation.

The next song, 'Fairytale' – devoted to her cousin on becoming a first-time mother – was a new one on the audience, and with a completely different vibe to the on-stage party we were just recovering from. The transition from up tempo to almost melancholic though was somehow seamless, and made me think how cleverly the set list had been put together, taking us on a steady but not too raucous roller coaster of highs and lows.  

Following on with another new track, 'Ghost', La Havas displayed her talent for reaching those high notes in that effortless manner for which she's known, at one point singing acapella, showing off what felt like a limitless vocal range.

Whilst singing 'Lost & Found' and then 'Unstoppable', the one thing that struck me was the number of guitar changes made throughout the set... La Havas is known for her gentle guitar riffs but notably didn't learn to play fully until she was 18, so to witness her expert handle of not two or three, but four different guitars somehow added to the authenticity of her natural ability as a musician.

And in case you thought I hadn't been impressed by this point (haven't you been paying attention?), she introduces a female choir on stage, but not just any choir, Norbury Manor Celeste Choir, which La Havas was a member of herself during her school years.

At this point doe eyed exchanges were being made by couples in the audience and my own thoughts wondered if she had space in her life for a new best friend..

The choir, headed up by Emma Stevens (La Havas' first vocal coach), was a welcome addition and inspired the friendliest heckles I've ever heard from an audience. Showered with praise, there were almost involuntary yelps of, “You're amazing!” and “We love you!” thrown from every direction, at which point La Havas returned each with similar shows of love and gratitude. Now this sort of interaction doesn't occur regularly at metal gigs (of which I am more familiar), so I was a little taken aback, and it took an awful lot of will power for me not to join in.       

During the set La Havas also paid tribute to one of her favourite bands, Everything Everything, who played at the DLWP in December, covering their track 'Final Form', before dedicating a simple ditty to the people of Bexhill, which was of course very well received!

We thought that was it for the evening, but a heavy stomping of tan brogues and stylish moccasins called for an encore, which was obligingly met with the return of the choir, this time with La Havas in tow to sing childhood favourite, 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow'.

An extra treat was having the stage emptied before La Havas broke out into Aretha Franklin's 'I Say A Little Prayer', which was delivered with great feeling and little tampering before the real finale, complete with band and choir for full effect, of 'Forget' – which is one thing I shan't be doing any time soon.

The new album, 'Blood' by Lianne La Havas is available to buy now, tickets are still on sale for her UK and worldwide tour, details of which can be found at: liannelahavas.com

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