WATCHING Laura Mvula perform live is a joyous experience. With a voice that cuts through ice, she can sing whatever she wants to – and imperiously so – be it a bit of jazz, a bit of funk, soul or ballads that melt the heart. But it’s the enthusiasm that she brings to the stage that makes her a marvellous live performer. She knows how to connect.
At Ronnie Scott’s on Tuesday night, she had a packed audience (that included her Mum) literally eating out of her hand as she treated them to two hours of pure musical ecstasy. Passion coursed through her veins and vocal chords. She oozed talent. Whiffs of Nina Simone.
A mix of self-deprecation and Brummie cheerfulness, she underpinned the show with lashings of humour. It created an intimacy that many live entertainers fail to achieve. Even the lack of a drummer (off playing for Diana Ross) was tolerated as Mvula delivered a set built around her three albums spanning eight years – Sing To The Moon (2013), The Dreaming Room (2016) and last year’s Pink Noise.
Opening with Safe Passage, the first track on Pink Noise, she proceeded to demonstrate her broad repertoire. There was a beautiful duet with Oli Rockberger (What Matters), a bit of love (Show Me Love) and a rather haunting Father, Father with telling lyrics:
Don’t try to fight; don’t let me go
You’ve gone too far from what I know
I lost my heart in the dark with you
Father, father, why you let me go
Father, please don’t let me go
What mother thought about the song we were not told. But Mvula said she had yet to decide whether to sing it again the following night at Ronnie’s when father would be present.
She acknowledged the influence of Prince in her career with a beautifully crafted version of I Would Die For You (she supported him at his last gig in her home city of Birmingham).
Her most successful song, Green Garden, which was close to becoming a top 30 single hit in 2013, was enthusiastically received – a song about the garden in Kings Heath that she spent many happy days playing in as a kid.
With a thumping finale comprising Diamonds (Sing To The Moon) and Got Me (Pink Noise), Mvula delivered quite spectacularly. With a tour commencing in late August, Mvula is coming out of hibernation.
‘Thanks for being a real audience,’ she said. Catch her if you can. You’ll love every minute of her. Bubbly. Bright. Vivacious. Exceptionally talented.