Bowery Ballroom, NYC
For British people, Laura Mvula is a fairly well known name. Her songs rattle through the radio on a daily basis. Previous credits include support slots for the likes of Jessie Ware and Paloma Faith and her debut LP reached a peak of number 9 in the UK album charts after it’s March release. She is established, successful and celebrated. Stateside, the fans are few and far between but in no way less enthusiastic. This show at Bowery Ballroom was sold out and Mvula was playing to a crowd that knew the hits (and sometimes the album tracks) and were there to start the Mvula revolution in the USA. It was kind of fun to watch.
The Birmingham born singer-songwriter was genuinely humbled by the turn out- “I asked my manager earlier in the year if he thought we’d get a New York show. He said ‘Maybe give it a couple of years.’” Her sound is hard to not find charming and sweet. It’s soul from the Jill Scott school which is founded on real emotion and sentiment with very little in the way of metaphor or comparison. Cuts from her LP like ‘Flying Without You’, title track ‘Sing To The Moon’ and the flawless ‘She’ are wonderfully simple and smart. Their greatest strength is their melody which is refreshing and addictive to listen to. On occasion, a couple of the tracks sound slightly forced and the lyricism is frank but perhaps a touch generic. Nevertheless she performs them with the soul and spirit that got her attention in the first place. She also proves that she isn’t just a ballad merchant. ‘That’s Alright’ is an explosive single which is worthy of the inevitably heavy US airplay which awaits us. When she played it live, Mvula dances around the stage and grins frantically with her band to create an atmosphere similar to the one Janelle Monae creates with her vibrant, spirited live show. This kind of moving and shaking could be seen as a little bit of a risk for an artist this early on with such a clear sense of identity but Mvula pulls it off without breaking a sweat. For some, the uptempo numbers were the indisputable highlight but to an extent they only worked in parallel to the ballads. It’s the stark contrast that made the pop songs so much more invigorating.
Without a doubt 2013 will see the elevation of Laura Mvula seep across the USA just like it has in the UK and this is no bad thing. Some of the tracks might be a tad forgettable but what was showcased at The Bowery Ballroom was an artist brimming with sensitivity, creative flare and an unshakeable voice.
Words: Duncan Harrison