thu 14/11/2019

Lisa Stansfield, Royal Albert Hall - mutual Affection, 30 years on | reviews, news & interviews

Lisa Stansfield, Royal Albert Hall - mutual Affection, 30 years on

Lisa Stansfield, Royal Albert Hall - mutual Affection, 30 years on

Northern soul, northern roots

Our Lisa: down-to-earth appealEd Fielding

Rochdale boasts quite a number of star turns but those that spring readily to mind are William Walton, Andy Kershaw, Barb Jungr, Gracie Fields and Lisa Stansfield. And here’s a good pub quiz question: what, apart from Rochdale, links Gracie and Lisa? It’s their shared surname! Gracie dropped the first four letters and rearranged the remaining five. Lisa, who was born up the road in Manchester, kept it.

It’s 30 years this year since Stansfield made her solo debut with Affection, which delivered several hit singles and which, with sales of five million, is the biggest of the eight albums she’s released. She’s been sparing with both albums and tours, working throughout with Ian Devaney, a schoolfriend who finally became her husband in 1998. In the 2000s, Stansfield turned to acting, appearing in the TV series The Edge Of Love, Miss Marple and Goldplated, and making her stage debut in The Vagina Monologues. She was a natural for Northern Soul, the docudrama about the soul sounds which surrounded her as she grew up and which has been her inspiration.

While her career was launched on the Eighties TV show Search for a Star, which she won at just 14, she’s no desire to return to reality TV and recently turned down a lucrative offer to step out in Strictly Come Dancing. It’s just “not me”, she’s explained. “I really don't have an interest in it and people think I'm a freak because I'm not obsessed by Strictly Come Dancing but it just doesn't appeal to me.” Nor does she watch The X Factor or The Voice and so won't be accepting a seat on the judging panel any time soon. Good on you, girl! Say it like it is, no nonsense. Stansfield and her husband try to avoid the media spotlight, and while they don’t live in Rochdale they do have a studio there, Gracieland, and it’s where they still record. Doubtless, that's what keeps her grounded.

The Royal Albert Hall was the penultimate gig of a nine-date UK tour which was preceded last year by a lengthy US trip, her first in two decades. After a couple of days off, Stansfield and the band head to the Netherlands, there to begin a score of dates across Europe. When the applause has died down after the last show in Moscow in December, she won’t exactly have been “All Around the World” but she’ll have clocked up a good few miles.

It was a mutual love-in in London and by five songs in, “This Is the Right Time”, much of the audience was on its feet, dancing on the spot – and stayed that way throughout Stansfield's 90-minute set. There were a few Halloween costumes but our Lisa was low-key and chic, dressed in skinny charcoal jeans and a white silk shirt, dark hair cropped. She was on the move throughout the performance, prancing and dancing and gesticulating like a female Mick Jagger and obviously enjoying every minute of it. “Affection” launched the evening, and that album was well represented, “Sincerity”, “Poison” (“about a very very naughty man” she said by way of introduction, in her unmistakable Rochdalian tones) and “Wake Up Baby” among the numbers from it. She closed with “People Hold On”, which it seemed would never stop. The Mick Hucknall-lookalike keyboard player was in ecstasy. “This is everything I’ve ever wanted,” Stansfield told the audience, with scarcely a hint of breathlessness, “thank you so very very much.” The sincerity was palpable.

She returned for an encore, white silk swapped for grey silk. “Our country is in a very weird place at the moment, and these are times we need to stick together and love each other”, she said, launching in to “People Hold On” from the Coldcut album that immediately predated her solo career.

People hold on
Don't do yourself wrong
People hold on
We've got to be strong
People hold on

Amen to that.

Jazz Morley, who opened the show, was born in the year Affection hit the turntables - remember those days? A short set revealed a good voice: definitely a talent to watch. However, working with a lone keyboard player she also revealed the inadequacies of the sound in the cavernous RAH. From my seat stage-left there was an echo much like that on a satellite link. It was evident in Stansfield’s set too, though largely disguised by the band.

Liz Thomson's website

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