Lianne La Havas at The Old Fire Station, Bournemouth (17/10/2012)

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On a stormy evening in Bournemouth a queue is swelling outside The Old Fire Station, as excited fans of all ages wait for the Sound of 2012 nominee, and Mercury Music Prize shortlisted artist Lianne La Havas.

Support comes from Bristol singer-songwriter George Ezra whose bluesy voice captivates the audience in the intimate venue. Switching between resonator and acoustic guitars, an emotion infused set from a mysteriously unknown new talent is the perfect warm up for an artist who was in a similar position just 12 months ago. His soulful vocals – remiscent of Paolo Nutini – flow through several self-written tracks such as ‘Angry Hill‘ and ‘It’s Just My Skin‘. George Ezra is, without a doubt, someone to look out for in the next year.

After being forced to cancel a string of UK tour dates due to being hospitalised for a kidney infection, this is the first date of Lianne La Havas’ UK tour. She takes to the stage and launches straight into ‘Au Cinema’ as a sereneness descends over the room as everyone eagerly listens. Wearing a dark, wing-like shirt with gold shorts, La Havas’ voice glides through tracks from her debut album Is Your Love Big Enough?, including ‘They Could Be Wrong’ and ‘Everything Everything’. Harmonies are perfected by a female backing singer and her male band mates to create an overwhelming sound. This is something that feels special. The Old Fire Station is an intimate venue with a perfect sound system for the gig, and here is a voice that it would be difficult to beat.

The tranquil audience watches with awe as she continues with the emotional ‘No Room For Doubt’ and ‘Tease Me’. La Havas exudes charm which is warm and welcoming, and the whole venue is brought to life by her infectious smile and unbeatable voice. “This feels like a good first date, Bournemouth” she exclaims before launching into ‘Empty’. The performance is honest and thought-provoking. Demonstrating total control, she builds from a gentle and reflective beginning to powerfully belting out the chorus of “Just leave town / I can sleep when you’re not around”. It’s one of the most impressive performances of the night, and leads my friend to turn around and proclaim “She has the best voice ever!”.

However, followed by a rendition of Jill Scott’s ‘He Loves Me’, a performance of ‘Gone’, accompanied by a pianist blows everyone away even further as her spotless vocals ache the pain of heartbreak; “What happened to you / thought I knew you / no more chances / I’m gone, gone, gone”. It’s mindblowingly emotive and deep and there is no denying that someone who has this level of vocal and songwriting ability is anything less than one of the UKs most impressive contemporary talents.

The set comes to an end with her upbeat debut single ‘Forget’, but her encore comes in the form of a brand new song in which she sings “Try your best to comprehend / that I’m not just that bitch who stole your ex boyfriend”. Closing the whole gig is ‘Age’ in which La Havas grins cheekily. It’s been an extremely special night and I would urge anyone to go and see Lianne La Havas as soon as possible. The most understated artist of 2012, and one of the best live performances I have ever seen.

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