Hall to play for

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WHETHER playing mean blues or boogie on the guitar, or singing his own songs about carnal love, God or absent fathers, Lynden David Hall is excellent. With a repertoire like that, he would be garlanded with praise if he were a white American in the alternative country mould, and signed to an independent label called something like Dog Do. Instead, he's a black British soul act on EMI. Not only is his music written in a foreign language - that of American R'n'B - but he is also the latest in a long line of Brit-soulers who have had to deal with premature comparisons with the great, and usually, the dead, of the past. Despite releasing two killer singles from his superb debut album of last year, Medicine 4 My Pain, Hall's success was still not assured - the album was even repackaged after the first cover was deemed to be too dark.

This opening date of his first major national tour was so good, however, that he looks sure to prevail in the end. With a nifty four-piece band, two backing singers, and tunes from the album already familiar to most of the audience, Hall was brilliant from the very first note, yet just got better with each number. Though his niche is Nu Classic Soul in the manner of Maxwell, D'Angelo and Chico DeBarge, Hall is the equal of any of them.

He gains extra credibility from his musicianship - he wrote, produced or co-produced and performed almost everything on the album himself - and his love-god credentials, which are substantial. Tall, rangy and shaven of head, Hall more than looks the part, but he's also sufficiently charming and good-humoured not to threaten too many boyfriends. When he swaps his electric guitar for an acoustic, he also reveals a new persona, projecting an endearing vulnerability on songs such as the beautiful "Do Angels Cry" and "Crescent Moon". A wonderfully lubricious version of what should have been his big hit, "Sexy Cinderella", ended the show. All in all, Hall was fantastic. He could be the new Al Green. Whoops.

Phil Johnson

To 18-19 March, when he plays London's Shepherd's Bush Empire (0171- 771 2000). A version of this review appeared in later editions of yesterday's paper