UK artist Laura Mvula has received rave reviews overseas and, now that her album Sing to the Moon is set for release in the States, she's earning high praise here. But she still she could admit she was nervous in front of a crowd of industry types at her debut show in NYC.
Two descriptive terms that come to mind when considering Laura Mvula’s music would be majestic or regal. On stage, Mvula carried herself gracefully, despite any nervousness she confessed to feeling when performing in front of press and music industry professionals for the first time in New York at an intimate venue. As she noted, she knew “who is in the room”. But the Columbia Record execs wanted to celebrate her forthcoming (in the US on May 14) album Sing to the Moon and to continue build the domestic buzz she’s had going since her SXSW dates. They also took the opportunity to celebrate her birthday too, presenting her with a cake after the band sang “Happy Birthday”.
Mvula was giving in return, performing about ten songs for the crowd with a live band behind her. From the moment “Let Me Fall” began, the audience was transfixed on Mvula so self-possessed she was . The truest beauty came a couple of songs in with the title track “Sing to the Moon”. The light instrumentation made it seem almost like a Sufjan Stevens song but formidable percussion gave it the heft and lofted the song to majestic heights. The simple lyrics “Sing to the moon / and the stars will shine” were imbued with such rich energy that you don’t doubt that Mvula sings the truth. “Green Garden” drew the audience to join in with its hand-claps, and seemed to recall Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman” in a small way, but was fully formed and mature enough to stand on its own. For her final song, Mvula covered Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” drawing some huge applause. At one point, she welcomed the audience to “sing along” with the warning to not “show me up”. But its doubtful anyone in the room could show up such a pristine and lovely voice.