Leona Lewis, Hackney Empire, London – November 2nd
Leona Lewis first appeared on the stage of the Hackney Empire when she was 13 years old. Eleven years later, the now sleek and shiny woman-sized Lewis returned to her hometown to play her first ever headline show before an audience of adoring fans last night. Security was heavy after Leona was recently punched in the face at a book launch. However, when she appeared on stage shimmering and trailing a long cloak, the Hackney resident cut a cool and confident figure as she launched into her first song…
Leona kicked off with Brave from her new album, a suitable opener that showed off her impressive vocal range. Whatever you say about Leona, the girl can sing. But as the show wore on, it became apparent that the performance side of the job was something that Leona was going to have to work on. Better In Time suffered from a technical hitch at the beginning where the guitar went awol, but Leona and her backing singers trooped on. The chanteuse truly hit her stride on the fourth number, new single Happy. Leona sang it through a projected video, not the first of the night, showing that this was a show and not just a gig. The X Factor winner also had dancers prancing about her throughout the evening, although they might want to work on their timing for future shows, nearly colliding with one another on several occasions. Bleeding Love signalled the halfway point, with Leona warbling her way through it in that way she does and then thanking her audience for all their support. There was also time for a dull, theatrical version of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, before the woman of the moment finished up with her stab at electro-pop entitled Out Of My Head, which proved that Leona can’t multi-task, her backing vocals taking over as she attempted some moves. And before you ask, no, it wasn’t as good as Kylie.
Throughout, the night felt 2D rather than 3D. Even though Leona was singing right in front of us, it felt as though she was only there in body and not spirit. Her performance, while professional, lacked any emotion or depth and every song seemed geared to the moment when she would hit the high note, double over and then throw her head back as the sound protruded from her frame. When she crept back on stage for the encore of Run, she looked very alone as the smoke pumped out all around her. Perhaps what works on TV doesn’t always translate into live performance. Whatever, Leona will have to beef up her stage prescence and performance on this evidence.