Lianne La Havas enchants at the Varsity, 3/31/13
Photo by Tony Nelson
"Well, it's nice to meet you all! It's my first show ever in Minneapolis, and I'm thrilled you're all here," announced a beaming Lianne La Havas three songs into her set last night at the Varsity Theater. "I have a question for you all, and I think I already know the answer to this, but I'm gonna ask anyway... Minneapolis: Is your love big enough?"
The answer to that question--the title track from her debut album--was, indeed, obvious, because it's absolutely impossible not to be in love with La Havas. She was a vision on stage in a mod-ish white sleeveless dress and a belt with the lettering "When Doves Cry" (a quiet shout-out to Prince -- who, by the way, was upstairs enjoying the show himself), and she gave a performance that was both soul-stirring and thoroughly entertaining.
Lianne La Havas looked flawless, and she sounded the same. As she progressed through the entirety of Is Your Love Big Enough? -- with expert sequencing, paced out perfectly -- it was as though each song caused audience members to fall even more in love with her. How else could she have gotten a sleepy Easter Sunday night crowd to get a "human percussion" thing going by her fourth song? The entire crowd was stomping and clapping in time with "Is Your Love Big Enough?" and it didn't sound bad.
Photo by Tony Nelson
Love, by the way, is La Havas' favorite subject, and while there was plenty of it going around last night, it was her songs that captured attention. "Gone" was a powerful mid-set ballad about a relationship turned sour, sung by La Havas with only her keyboardist accompanying, and it was clear that the singer still felt everything. La Havas has a way of communicating with an audience as though she is sharing secrets with them; she shows her emotions openly, her face a vulnerable transparency. Then, at the end of that gloomy song -- where La Havas got to show off her raw vocal talent, her warm voice reaching a tall crescendo -- the singer brought everyone back up again with a disarming smile as her band rejoined her on stage.
"Since we're on the subject of my ex-boyfriend, I was wondering if you'd like to help me get some aggression out by helping me sing the next song," asked La Havas playfully of the audience. She instructed the audience to sing "really angry" with her on "Forget," and the crowd happily obliged. She could have asked anything of them.
Photo by Tony Nelson
With the crowd thoroughly enchanted by La Havas, the singer seemed to be utterly enjoying herself. She has a way of smiling that makes everyone in the room feel special, and last night, it seemed as if she didn't want to leave the stage.
"Imagine, coming all the way from England to see this," said La Havas joyously, her eyes sweeping the room. "I'm having a really good time, you guys. Thank you so much."
La Havas closed the night with her charming sing-along "Age," promising to "come back with bells on." As audience members filtered out, starry-eyed and dazed, it was obvious that the romance La Havas started with Minneapolis fans will certainly prove a big enough love.
Critic's bias: Having had Is Your Love Big Enough? in my rotation for months, I knew I liked La Havas. But seeing her perform, I was surprised by how much I liked her. She's just so likeable.
The crowd: Age-spanning and so happy.
Overheard in the crowd: "Oh, she's so beautiful," sighed a girl behind me. Also, "Hello love, how are you?" was shouted in unison by a couple guys throwing an accent at the front of the stage, to which La Havas laughed and said, "Oh, that's very good!"
Random notebook dump: Jamie N. Commons was at first an unexpected choice for an opener -- blues-rock-country with a deep voice and lots of guitar -- but the talented Brit quickly won the crowd with his energy and talent. At 45 minutes, his opening set was lengthy, but far from wasted. Definitely one to watch for when he comes through town next, as it's likely he won't be an opening act for much longer.
No Room For Doubt
Is Your Love Big Enough?
Weird Fishes (Radiohead cover)
They Could Be Wrong
Lost And Found
Don't Wake Me Up
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