The long-anticipated return of Ledisi to the UK as a performer came this week as she started a series of shows at London’s Jazz Cafe in Camden. I had no idea that her last performance here was ten years ago. There’s been plenty of new material during that time, and she later indicated that she’s been wanting to come back to London during that time but didn’t say why she hadn’t.
Jazz Cafe has had a refurbishment since the last time I was here, and it’s been done out quite nicely. The bar downstairs has moved to one side near the front of the building. It makes it so revellers have more room and can see more without having to ‘scootch’ around the bar which was often a bottleneck. For the first time ever I even went downstairs where the cloakrooms and bathrooms are located, pretty nice.
Ledisi started here show with crowd favourite Upside Down and moved swiftly into Let Love Rule before hitting us up with a tribute to Queen Aretha Frankin with a quite special interlude into Natural Woman.
The show was spectacular in places, but I couldn’t help being put off by the constant directing of the band by the artist. This was explained by the fact that she had only had one day’s rehearsal with the UK musicians (not sure if backing were also the UK or whether they came with her).
I have a bit of a bug-bear with the promoters who bring over US artist and don’t opt to pay for the artist’s musicians as well. It is excellent that UK musicians get to play for these top drawer artist, however, unless they have played with them in the past, they are not going to understand and know that artists’ nuance, and vice versa.
It was quite clear that Ledisi was not in a comfort zone early on in her performance, though she was the consummate professional, her vocals precise and immaculate, the fact that she would intersperse directions to the band when she wanted up and then down in volume, was a bit annoying.
She almost became a coach at one point, ‘We’ll get through it, it’s the first night’ was a common utterance heard during the show.
Now I say this not because I want to dis Ledisi or the excellent musicians, I say this because as a paying ticket holder, I expect a top drawer performance, I don’t want to come and have them perform 75% or 80% ready, I want 95-100%.
The show was an hour and a half long during which we were treated to numerous classic hits and some of her new material.
The encore saw the songstress changed out of her stage outfit into a more casual look (it looked like she wasn’t thinking there’d be an encore?). The classic intro to the anthem ‘Think of you’ started up and the crowd went nuts. The crowd held their phones high as they began singing, Ledisi ending with a cry ‘You do love me’, and a declaration that she’s been asking to come back to the UK but couldn’t get a promoter to arrange the tour, left many of us, her fans, stunned. It also explained some of the awkward vibe coming off stage during the earlier part of the performance.
Promoters, please do better because Ledisi is a legend in her own lifetime and is definitely a talent that would be able to fill larger venues in London and other parts of the country where lovers of RnB music reside.