Gig review: Lisa Stansfield, Glasgow

After a ten'year break, Lisa Stansfield is still a down'to'earth diva. Picture: Getty
After a ten'year break, Lisa Stansfield is still a down'to'earth diva. Picture: Getty
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“Let’s not talk about politics,” appealed Lisa Stansfield. On this Saturday night, she preferred to talk the unifying language of soul. The struggles outlined in her lyrics are usually of the domestic variety, the rallying point is the dancefloor and a broadly feelgood sentiment abounds, even though she admitted she wasn’t always entirely sure what her lyrics were about.

Lisa Stansfield - O2 Academy, Glasgow

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Stansfield has recently returned to performing after a ten-year break from the limelight. In that time, Amy Winehouse shook up British soul, then Paloma Faith brought it back into the processed pop fold. Stansfield is closer to the latter in balancing the roots of the genre with its pop commodification.

With a few exceptions, her brand of smooth soul funk has always been more old-fashioned than old school, although if you squint the right way you can just about discern the influence of 1970s-era Marvin Gaye, The Isley Brothers and The O’Jays on the disco groove of Carry On and the floaty, flutey rapture of her Barry White cover Never, Never Gonna Give You Up.

Despite the elegant fitted gown and white camellia in her hair, Stansfield was the down-to-earth diva, coaxing the audience out of their seats to dance, demonstrating her matter-of-fact way with a song précis (“…so she kills him”) and declaring her intention to indulge in a non-diva diet of square sausage after the show.

Careful with those carbs, Lisa – in contrast with the piercing soprano of her backing singer, her contralto sounded decidedly croaky on occasion though, rather than mine that aspect of her tone, she displayed more of a tendency to ham up her delivery, milking the rhythm’n’blues testifying of Stupid Heart and the would-be inspirational ballad Conversation, one of a handful of new songs in an otherwise pretty sustained tour through her hit-strewn back catalogue.

Her band, meanwhile, provided solid backing, with occasional flexible flourishes which perked up the 1980s pop soul menu, such as the jazz funk sax solo on Change and its lively Cubana coda on keyboards, congas and trumpet. They positively romped down the home straight as the hen party euphoria of What Did I Do To You? dovetailed into the house piano, lithe bass and screaming diva backing vocals of People Hold On, a real late 1980s house music anachronism which nevertheless still sounded vibrant, then segued straight into the freewheeling Someday (I’m Coming Back). By the end of the gig, Stansfield was making that title a promise.

Seen on 13.09.14