Laura Mvula – review

Tabernacle, London

She has been acclaimed as a rising star of 2013, but at her first headline show, Laura Mvula sounds less like soul music's second coming and more like Miranda. "Oh my gosh. Wow," she says, her heavily made-up eyes wide with surprise. "I wasn't expecting this. Won't cry. Let's move swiftly on."

Its not surprising Mvula is overcome. The former secondary-school supply teacher is celebrating the release of her debut album, Sing to the Moon, with a six-piece band that includes her sister, Dionne, on violin and brother, James, on cello. Her mum, looking on, also earns a mention. "Thanks for putting up with not just me, but the two of them," Mvula says, casting a conspiratorial look at her younger siblings.

Mvula's strong ties to her roots are reflected in her music. A shimmering blend of jazz, gospel and pop, it confounds as much as it comforts, her rich vocals taking unexpected journeys over lush "sound sketches", as Mvula calls them, shaped by the classical training the 25-year-old received at the Birmingham Conservatoire. Wearing a long white shirt-dress, Mvula glows from behind a red keyboard for Like the Morning Dew, the rush of choral harmonies giving way to her clipped delivery and soft, twinkly notes. Swathed in harp, strings and double bass, she sounds a bit like Amy Winehouse singing Jens Lekman, the whimsical, warm melody never allowed to overshadow the down-to-earth attitude. Military rhythms march through the intimacy of She and the non-album track Let Me Fall, while Is There Anybody Out there – played live for the first time – features trumpet blasting over a melody that has a haunting loveliness reminiscent of the Stingray end-credit song, Aqua Marina.

Mvula is the cool, collected centre of this fluid instrumentation. She restricts her movement to a few fluttery arm gestures and keeps far away from the overemoting beloved of X Factor contestants, while her voice is pure and heartfelt on the painfully personal Father Father and utterly silences the awestruck crowd. She's even better on the upbeat songs. Joyful handclaps, a chiming melody and churning groove mark out Green Garden as something special; her next single, That's Alright, is a hymn to empowerment that could well become a summer anthem. All in all, an emotional night. "I'm trying not to cry," Mvula says, trying to take in the excited applause and appreciative cheers. She had better get used to it.

• What have you been to see lately? Tell us about it on Twitter using #GdnGig


Betty Clarke

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Laura Mvula review – leftfield soul talent swaggers and soars
An unamplified scat singalong with the crowd is one highlight of a disparate, jazz-inflected set held together by Mvula’s unique voice

Graeme Virtue

17, Nov, 2016 @11:05 AM

Article image
Laura Mvula review – charismatic, candid and ferociously gifted
Mvula's gripping performance in an intimate setting brought to mind the intensity of Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan, writes Ian Gittins

Ian Gittins

31, Aug, 2014 @4:32 PM

Article image
Love Supreme Jazz festival review – smart balance of edgy and mainstream
From a gripping Laura Mvula to a rousing Jamie Cullum, the ambitious young festival covered all the bases, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

08, Jul, 2014 @4:06 PM

Article image
Laura Mvula: Sing to the Moon – review
It may be Laura Mvula's fate to be pitched as yet another retro-soul singer, but there's clearly more to her than that, says Alexis Petridis

Alexis Petridis

28, Feb, 2013 @4:06 PM

Article image
New band of the day: Laura Mvula (No 1,378)

In a corner of the market saturated by soul-girl songwriters, Mvula's delightfully unexpected arrangements could stand out

Paul Lester

23, Oct, 2012 @4:13 PM

Article image
Laura Mvula and Black Voices review – impressive, gutsy tribute to life-changing women
The Mobo-winning star joined forces with family to exquisitely harmonise in songs by Nina Simone, Sweet Honey in the Rock and Mvula herself

Robin Denselow

24, Jan, 2019 @12:20 PM

Article image
Laura Mvula: Sing to the Moon – review
Laura Mvula's debut is dreamy and arresting, if a touch too tasteful, writes Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

03, Mar, 2013 @12:05 AM

Article image
Ones to watch in 2013: Laura Mvula

Paul Lester: Her soulful vocals and florid soundscapes have helped this 26-year-old invent a new musical genre – gospeldelia

Paul Lester

31, Dec, 2012 @10:00 AM

Music tip for 2013: Laura Mvula - video interview

Hotly-tipped singer Laura Mvula speaks to Paul Lester about her music

Cameron Robertson, Paul Lester and Liam Macleod

31, Dec, 2012 @10:00 AM

Article image
Laura Mvula review – playing it safe for the seated masses
The Mercury-nominated star has overcome some personal demons this year but now needs to throw caution to the wind

Kitty Empire

20, Nov, 2016 @9:00 AM