“I STILL get very, very nervous,” confided 27-year-old Birmingham-born singer Laura Mvula, demonstrating how even the validation of a Mercury Prize nomination can’t wipe away the onstage insecurities of years spent toiling in obscurity.
“I don’t like this at all.”
Yet within six months of that debut album Sing to the Moon’s release, she’s clearly built a support base which cares.
“We love you, Laura,” shot back one female voice with a tremble of affection, and the singer replied “I love you too, genuinely.”
In truth, Mvula (her married name: she was born Laura Douglas) really is the kind of talent for whom it’s worth going the extra mile.
Mirroring the stylish air present amongst her dominantly female audience, she appeared dressed cooly in black shirt and trousers, her hair shaven back to a light stubble.
In person, her music also trod a fine balance between the smooth and the raw, with the inclusion of a harpist, a cellist, a violinist, a double bassist and a drummer adding light and unusual backing to songs like She and the album’s autumnal title track.
On record both Mvula’s voice and the air of breezy psychedelia remind of the late Minnie Riperton in her Rotary Connection days. In person not so much, aside from maybe the arcing vocal of Flying Without You.
Otherwise, this was a set of pure soul, from the shimmering harp and harmonies of Is There Anybody Out There? (segueing into Bob Marley’s One Love) to her lustrous signature track Green Garden and the drum-heavy stomp of That’s Alright, and finally, the sole encore Make Me Lovely.