Laura Mvula at Islington Assembly Hall
A small fire at Village Underground meant a last-minute relocation of Laura Mvula’s concert. However, it turned out fine as the 1930s hall made a perfect replacement, the ornate mouldings to the side of the stage somehow complementing Mvula’s swag.
On Thursday night she’s rocking a sequinned white blazer dress, legs glossy and strutting beneath, dripping with jewellery. A hot pink keytar looks like something Prince could have dreamed up in a sexy fever dream and bequeathed to the singer. She is clearly loving being back on-stage, breaking into heartfelt tears at one point, and gleefully pointing out producer Dann Hume on the VIP balcony, graciously crediting him for helping create the sound of her latest album, Pink Noise.
Mvula arrived on the scene with 2013’s magisterial Sing to the Moon, a gospel and a cappella-influenced debut that gained MOBO and Mercury Prize nominations and marked her as one to watch. There followed the equally highly acclaimed The Dreaming Room in 2016, after which she was somewhat inexplicably dropped by label RCA (by a forwarded email no less). So this year’s long-awaited third album has been a long time coming. It shows a whole new joyous, funky direction. The artist is clearly in love with her album and having a ball performing it. Her voice is probably the best in music in terms of sheer magnitude and technique. It’s preternaturally powerful, with glittering high notes spangling over the beat and expansive mid-notes that teeter on the rasp of too much, leaving a feeling of awe.
She opens with the first single from Pink Noise, Safe Passage. Next, Church Girl asks, “How can you dance with the devil on your back?”, pink lights shimmering. This is followed by a suitably funked-up rendition of Sing to the Moon, a spectral and beguiling piece of songwriting. In this beefier guise it’s even more beautiful. The politically charged Remedy sees her voice reach new heights, the stage lit with oppressive red. Her five0piece band take all their cues from her, as she masterfully brings light and shade to the show. The sultry staccato funk of Pink Noise is another highlight, as is the Michael Jackson-indebted Got Me. Like the best live shows, this one builds on the album and adds unexpected energy. The only song played from The Dreaming Room, Show Me Love has an epic feel, like Kate Bush’s Running Up that Hill here. She has Bush’s experimental side mixed with serious musical skill, topped with the classy funk of Janelle Monae.
Whoever made the decision to drop her from her previous label needs to hand their ears back to God immediately for misuse. It seems Mvula needed to find the right chemistry with a producer to grow her voice. This is the joyous sound of an artist hitting their stride. Viewers can’t help but long to watch her again, she’s such a classy and captivating performer.
For further information and future events visit Laura Mvula’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Pink Noise here: