London, Palladium [Pic: Ed Fielding]
It’s not often an artist that’s been around for the best part of three decades can still surprise you. But Lisa Stansfield‘s the rare exception. Not that mighty voice coming out of such a modest frame – we’ve gotten used to that by now. Nor the easy-going, unpretentious rapport she immediately strikes up with the (sold-out) audience. Anyone that’s seen the Rochdale Queen of Soul’s gigs over the years will know she’s as down to earth as divas come.
It’s more the material. At a stage in her career when most artists are content to let their back-catalogue do all the heavy-lifting, Lisa is bold enough to opt for a 50/50 split set-list of old and new. The revelation is how strong the modern material is: a half dozen or so songs from current album Deeper easily standing head and shoulders amongst her massive hits of yesteryear. Indeed, Lisa’s storming performance of Hercules, with its shades of George Michael’s Faith and themes of self-empowerment, was amongst the evening’s highlights. As was the jazzy, scat-laden Butterflies, proving she’s still pushing the limits of the Stansfield sound.
Of course, nothing could compete with familiar classics like Change and The Real Thing in terms of audience reaction. And while So Natural was transformed into an intimate acoustic lullaby, and the Philly-inspired Live Together segued seamlessly into ’70s soul-disco diamond Young Hearts Run Free for the ultimate feel-good moment of the evening, it was left to ’80s anthem All Around The World to get raise the Palladium to its feet in a football-terrace style singalong. Something tells me Lisa’s going to be looking for her ba-ba-baby for many years to come.