sun 16/06/2024

Laufey, Royal Albert Hall review - fans in heaven | reviews, news & interviews

Laufey, Royal Albert Hall review - fans in heaven

Laufey, Royal Albert Hall review - fans in heaven

The sequence of heartbreak songs sounded same-y

Laufey at the Royal Albert HallAndy Paradise

In many ways, Laufey’s emotionally charged, sold-out Royal Albert Hall debut was a masterclass.

The Chinese-Icelandic musician, who started writing songs as a cello student while on a scholarship at Berklee School in Boston (2018-2021), inspires the kind of devotion in her fan base which is a phenomenon to behold.

If I had imagined that Mariah Carey’s “Lambily” would set a gold – and glitter – standard for smitten fandom, then this is something else: Laufey’s congregation of mainly female young worshippers are visibly and audibly younger and keener. A white ribbon in the hair is de rigueur; white linen or lacy dresses are a very frequent sight. One pair of young fans I saw had even corralled a slightly bemused-looking former cabinet minister to be there with them among the faithful. And the singer’s instruction to “sing with me, London” was unnecessary: they had been doing it, in their droves and loud and unbelievably strong, ever since the opening words of “Valentine”.

The Laufey-ites all seem to know what to do, and they do it in unison, like bringing out the massed phone torches for “Bewitched”. And if hard-pressed marketers of live music events can often, understandably, be prone to agonise about how they are ever going to find new audiences, one I spoke to last night was in spreadsheet heaven about the demographic of this particularly besotted crowd, completely new to the hall.

The appeal is understandable. In Laufey’s best and most-streamed song, “From the Start”, she set out, in her words, to “create a playful mix of old sounds with modern lyrics." It’s sixties bossa nova with lines like “Listening to you harp on 'bout some new soulmate / ‘She's so perfect,’ blah, blah, blah…” In the show it came at the end and was a definite high-point. Laufey invites her twin sister on to play a violin solo, in pink taffeta to contrast with the singer’s own white taffeta. The singer herself does some very accomplished dance steps in the style of Chorus Line, and the song works well as a celebration.

If “From the Start” was joyful, then the sequence of “Goddess”, “Fragile” “Bewitched” and then “Bored” left doubts. Heard one after the other, what stays in the mind about these songs is quite how similar their melodic material is. And thematically, there is an ever-present constantly circling theme of heartbreak. Laufy-ites will read this as heresy, but to this listener it all begins to feel a bit limited. Thankfully, a different world was opened up in the jazz standard "It Could Happen to You", which also had the benefit of the band's pianist finally being freed up from an electric keyboard and given the chance to stretch out on Laufey's own grand piano at the centre of the stage.  

I was also wondering about vocal production. The song "Goddess" has the words “You took….me…for… a...fool/ You...stole…my...youth” at its peak, with the gaps placed between words. Yes, keeping the words separate to reinforce the message has a purpose, but in the live context it can sound strained and I noted that the voice teacher next to me was tutting, and muttering something darkly about “shallow breathing”. 

Such quibbles aside, this was a memorable show and a special experience. Laufey loves the strong connections she has to London, “Beautiful Stranger” being based on an encounter on the tube, the video of “Bewitched” set in Notting Hill. She was at the Roundhouse as recently as March, but has said that the Royal Albert Hall has been “my dream venue forever”, and repeated that sentiment during the show several times, and again, after it on Instagram. The joyful roar of last night’s appreciative crowd was one of the most life-affirming sounds I will ever hear.

The jazz standard "It Could Happen to You" opened up a different world


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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