Ah, tell me about it, the goodness of a live album – a sacred medium containing the pleasure of experiencing live music in the comfort of your own home or iPod – and not within a venue where you have to fight with a hundreds of sweaty people trying to push you aside for those precious spots in front of the stage. I’m not trying to dishonor the actual musical experience because there’s really nothing quite like it, but if you’re a music fan living thousand of miles away from music capitals like London, New York or Los Angeles, alternatives are what you seek.
Name your favorite acts across genres – from R.E.M to queen of nu-soul Erykah Badu, they have at least one live album on their repertoire which they can be proud of. But when first time Mercury Prize 2012 nominee Lianne La Havas decided to share her recent performance at the iTunes Festival in a form of an EP, I couldn’t help but feel a bit skeptical.
You see, I don’t doubt La Havas’ ability to do wonders in her musical performances. Remember her television debut sometime late last year where the then unknown singer-songwriter performed that playful yet soothing jazzy acoustic number “Age” on Later… with Jools Holland? Combine that charm with her chicness and classiness, La Havas managed to capture hearts in less than three minutes and man, you know that’s something! Watch her other live performances on YouTube (my favorite being “Gone” live at Café St. Jean Session) and you know immediately that the girl is a natural.
The EP opens with bossa-influenced “They Could Be Wrong,” which sees her slowly gaining composure as the song builds up towards the end before ending on a rather dull note making this a weak opener. What follows are some of the tracks from her highly praised debut Is Your Love Big Enough? like the beautiful “Au Cinema” and the title-track, which could have been a better opener. Her rendition of Scott Matthews’ acoustic folk number “Elusive” could possibly be her best performance of the night (if I have to pick one) while “Don’t Wake Me Up” serves as a meaningful closure to her performance/EP giving the track list a somewhat solid ending.
But what could go wrong with this EP? La Havas sounded as good as she always has – musically and emotionally. Her emotions and that inviting voice of hers showcase the true performer in her. She was even backed by good backup vocals adding depth and harmonies to the songs.
On this live EP, crowd-favorites like “Age” and the song “Gone” would have been the right songs to showcase her vocal abilities in ways beyond these five chosen tracks could have done. And somehow what’s missing is that intimate melancholic moment – something the majority of good live (soul/R&B) albums have managed to create – that connection that seems missing between La Havas and the crowd.
Overall, I’d give her a few more years of music-making and perhaps after four to five studio albums before she can release a proper live album alongside her idol’s Jill Scott’s Experience 826+ or Badu’s 1997 Live. And when that time arrives; I’ll make sure I’m going to be in the front row, experiencing La Havas’ matured musical existence.