Jazz Festival review: Laura Mvula at Cork City Hall

Pictures: Jim Coughlan

By Des O'Driscoll

One of the most ambitious undertakings of this year's Guinness Cork Jazz Festival has been to book three concerts at the City Hall, a sizeable new venue for the event. Rostered for the Saturday night slot was Laura Mvula, the British soul singer who burst on the scene in 2013 with her debut album Sing To The Moon.

The 32-year-old has had her battles with depression and anxiety since then, but she seemed in sparkling form in Cork. With green hair and multi-coloured stripey T-shirt, there was no shortage of banter as she stomped about the stage with a synthesiser slung over her shoulder.

In footballing terms, for the huge City Hall stage, the Birmingham singer eschewed the use of wingers and placed herself at the head of a tight midfield diamond, backed by keyboards, drums and bass.

The good mood was at least partly due to recently signing to the Atlantic label, a deal she reveals came about when she was playing support to David Byrne. Sony will no doubt be keeping a close eye to see if they made a mistake by dropping her after two albums.

Tickets were in plentiful supply on the day of the show, an indication that this venue is a work in progress for the festival, but there were more than enough punters (downstairs standing, balcony seated) to ensure the venue had a decent atmosphere.

Mvula's quieter mid-set moments were always going to struggle against a chatty Saturday night crowd, and it was somewhat of a relief when she returned to the more upbeat tracks. Highlights included the title tune to her first album, a deconstructed version of hit single 'Green Garden', and a singalong with 'Bread' that gave an eager audience a chance to show off its own impressive vocal skills.

Many of those present tonight will probably be back in the venue this time next year when American jazz singer Kurt Elling will be accompanied by the RTE Concert Orchestra.

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