The soul girls take the Empire


Lianne La Havas

Four girls with talent and wit took over the Empire, unintentionally building up a four-day showcase for the female soul wave (in the broader sense of the term) currently splashing the UK. The ladies at the helm were none other than the much talked-about (and advertised) Lianne La Havas (11 & 12/3) and Jessie Ware (13 & 14/3).
But I first have to stress out, in all fairness, that I'm not a great soul fan. Unless we're talking Marvin Gaye or (to hit the 21st century roster) Lee Fields & the Expressions, I hardly have any patience with their soft rhythms and moaning vocals.
Jessie Ware
Their strengths? Both girls were unpretentious and generous performers, enthusiastically engaging with their audience. Their voices? Pretty darn engaging too. And their bands did a fine job supporting their ladies-at-the-wheel.
 La Havas's Forget ( and No Room For Doubt ( were beautiful live, as we know them on record. Ware, on the other hand, was a  different deal; I had to compartmentalize, admiring her vocals and the sensual backing rhythms - most evident in Running ( - separately and at my own time. Despite her talent, most of her songs ring a rather trendy bell. She interestingly broke conventions with the numerous choral guests from Goldsmiths College, who further enhanced her vocals and added to them (and the general surprise effect) with an artsy dance routine.
Laura Mvula
Ware's opening acts didn't go unnoticed either: Lulu James was a capable performer with a big voice. But I'm worried that she visually relates to Rihanna more than, let's say, Sharon Jones, as if she belongs to hit pop videos rather than to the powerful soul she is vocally able to pull off. Both at the soundcheck and the show, the bass (whether that translated to bass guitar or James' vocal tone) echoed so bad it was downright deafening. I'm not sure if I should blame the plain bad sound, or the band's inflated attack on their material... Either way the result was unfair to promising singles like Closer (
An original soul blend was what Ware's second opening act, Laura Mvula, was effortlessly able to capture. She dressed the beats with an interesting angle and a commanding presence. Her single Green Garden ( is by itself a joy.
All in all, the above gigs are judged by their highlights. There was plenty of space for me, personally, to drift and disengage (I also couldn't help but notice that Ware's fans talked more among them than actually paid attention; but then a lot of them kept dancing...).
But hey, you can't win them all; especially when they drool over the mere sound of Black Flag.

Lulu James

Text by Danai Molocha, photography kindly borrowed from the web.

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