The planets – or something – aligned. It was the right venue for that artist at the right time. British pop star Lianne La Havas at a crowded Varsity Theater on Tuesday night just felt right. So right.
Not because the crowd gushed like worshipful One Direction fans. Or because an admiring Prince sat in the balcony (as he did two years ago at the Varsity for La Havas’ debut; she sang on his “Art Official Age” album in 2014). Or because 89.3 the Current has been championing La Havas’ second and latest album, “Blood,” and recorded an in-studio session with her before the concert.
No, it’s because her sound fit the Varsity. And she was so effective in presenting her gauzy, gently breezy, enticingly sexy soul/jazz/pop. Her voice was fragile, befitting the vulnerability of her lyrics. But, like her lyrics, she also had resiliency and strength, showing a full-throated soulful voice that recalled Alicia Keys.
Natural, engaging and unpretentious, La Havas, 26, connected more convincingly in the quieter modes if only because her four-man band was a little too aggressive on up-tempo numbers like “Never Get Enough.”
When it was just her voice and her hollow body electric guitar playing soft jazzy chords, the London singer was penetrating and seductive, with her straightforward lyrics on “Age,” “Ghost” and “Tease Me” pulling at your heartstrings.
Even with her band and backup singer on a slower, pretty piece like “Lost and Found,” La Havas’ butter-like voice made you want to melt into your lover’s arms. And she was just as alluring on lite funk of “Unstoppable,” one of her singles from “Blood.”
La Havas’ sound may owe debts to a long line of mellow British soul/pop stars from Soul II Soul and Sade to Corinne Bailey Rae and Adele. In other words, her music is not particularly original but it is inspired and refreshing.
Tuesday’s 85-minute, 17-song set was split between material from “Blood” and her 2012 debut, “Is Your Love Big Enough?” Both records are winners but her live performance was even more remarkable.
Here is La Havas' set list from the Varsity:
Green & Gold/ Is Your Love Big Enough/ Au Cinema (with a snippet of Pharrell’s Happy) / What You Don’t Do/ Wonderful/ Tease Me/ No Room for Doubt/ Lost & Found/ Unstoppable/ Grow/ Midnight/ Elusive/ Never Get Enough/ Tokyo ENCORE Age/ Ghost/ Forget