Credit: Ananya Navale

Laufey at Royal Albert Hall: The ‘goddess’ of contemporary jazz

The air crackled with frenetic energy as the Icelandic-Chinese GRAMMY winner bounced onto the stage of Royal Albert Hall, wearing a shimmering white Prada dress that gave her the ethereal quality of a true goddess. Young girls (at heart) screamed out “Laufey!” as the singer began her London show.

Earlier in the night, before the doors opened, veteran and new Lauvers alike eagerly queued for the arena to open, in the meantime taking photos of each other in front of a blue velvet curtain photo booth, set to mimic the background of the ‘Bewitched: The Goddess Edition’ album cover. Pink and red bows, preppy sweaters and knee-length socks abounded, matching the traditionally classy stylings of the icon herself. Smiles were contagious, and it became clear that Laufey had already brought so much love to the evening ahead.

Opening for Laufey was British indie folk singer Matilda Mann, who brought softness and cotton-candy calm to the night with selections from her various singles, including her introduction Paper Mache World and Stranger (for now). Her crooning, accompanied by nothing but her own guitar, and paired with beautiful pastel lights and mist from the production design, enveloped the Hall in a peaceful lull.

Following a short interval, the palpable anticipation of the night rose to a peak, as fans pushed ever so slightly closer to the barriers in front of the arena stage. After introducing the tour with While You Were Sleeping (a perfect starter, in my personal opinion), Laufey switched to her iconic bright red Epiphone Dot guitar to play some crowd favorites like Valentine and picked up her cello for Beautiful Stranger and I Wish You Love.

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Laufey’s voice has an effect like no other; it needs no autotuning, no belting, no amplification or strain. Audience members swayed organically, turning on their phone flashlights to turn the venue into a starry night for the title song of the original album, Bewitched. The artist giggled and blushed between songs, saying “This has been my dream venue forever, I can die tomorrow, I’d be really happy”.

Keeping up a family connection to Royal Albert Hall, Laufey told the audience of her mother’s performance with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra as a violinist, and surprised the crowd by bringing her twin sister Junia on stage with her violin for the last bossa nova number of the set, From the Start. Also performed were three of the four new selections added for the Goddess Edition of the collection: Goddess, Bored, and It Could Happen to You as the final encore.

 This was the second time I have had the opportunity to watch Laufey work her magic in the span of no more than 7 months, having seen her original ‘Bewitched’ Tour in October in San Francisco. The improvement and elegance I noted was remarkable between the two performances, and I can’t wait to see her keep growing into the modern jazz standard she is surely becoming.

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