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Review: Music

Lalah Hathaway

Lalah Hathaway

O2 ABC, Glasgow

Rob Adams

Everything is music with Lalah Hathaway. Whether she's introducing her band, directing the audience to her merchandise or reminding people how to pronounce her first name (it's like Layla, the Eric Clapton song), Hathaway does it as if it's an extra verse or a bridge. And truth to tell, there's more soulful expression and personality in a single Hathaway link than in many a wannabe singer's entire repertoire.

Her first-ever performance in Glasgow may have taken a beat or three to hit its stride but by the time Hathaway and her vocal sidekick Jason Morales did the unthinkable and took the Gershwins' Summertime into entirely new territory, including traded whistling choruses, it was clear we were in the presence of greatness.

Hathaway's voice is a major instrument. Her tonal quality, especially at the lower end where it's wonderfully warm, is magnificent and she has the suppleness of phrasing that can take her from pop-soul into highly evolved jazz improvisations as naturally as breathing.

Watching her work both band and audience is a master class. She's a persuasive communicator and entertaining with it, telling her musicians - keyboards, guitar, bass and drums - to bring the volume down "so that we can hear these shy people sing". They didn't stay shy long and the chorus of Lean on Me (her own, not Bill Withers's) became a community gospel choir item, sung to a slamming, irresistible groove.

Luther Vandross's Forever For Always For Love was transformed into an epic, with guitarist Ben Jones matching Hathaway's creativity with a superbly constructed solo, and the Grammy-winning Something, taken at a brisker pace, marked a triumphant debut with a celebratory coda.

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