Pop Live: Lisa Stansfield Wembley Arena

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Lisa Stansfield may have reigned as Britain's soul queenie in the early Nineties, but in recent years she's kept pretty quiet. That may possibly have something to do with 1993's So Natural album: the multi-million-selling Rochdale diva suffered a drop in fortunes after its release, and in the four years since, she and her fiance/song-writing partner Ian Devaney have been tucked away in Ireland.

She's taken a hefty long time, then, to decide on her next direction. And what a dilemma she faced: should she go all out for the contemporary black American flava, close to Mary J Blige, or opt for safe, MOR pop- funk that is more Dinah Carroll territory? Tonight it's clear 31-year- old Lisa, looking sharp in a yellow suit and purple Wonderbra (no blouse) has chosen the latter route. And, perhaps reflecting her low currency in soul circles, black faces are few and far between. But this is a good, if not overwhelming, turn-out. She has a loyal gay following, who are punching the air to the oldies. It is fortunate, because it's hard to imagine Lisa picking up many new recruits under the age of 25. Syrupy funk topped off with tales of domesticated bliss is Lisa's forte, and there's nothing wrong with that, except that the songs lack the personality to sound real winners.

Melodic and lyrical inertia pervades much of the newer material. "I'm picking up the pieces now, I'm gonna get through this somehow," Lisa emotes on the mopey ballad "Don't Cry For Me". Of course the voice remains smart, a sweet perfume with a charm of its own. And naturally Lisa perspires with effort, never losing concentration. But nothing can add tension or sensuality to songs that haven't got them.

The old hits are the ones that are left with the job of igniting the show. Best is "All Woman", a song still capable of bringing the tears. It is a housewifey lullaby but a special one: the bleak lyric of a dowdy woman pleading for the love of her uninterested hubby captures the fragility of a relationship. Also part of the nostalgia-fest is "Change", still a glorious pop walloper, along with "Live Together" and "This is the Right Time". But their ripeness also serves to show up newer offerings such as "The Real Thing", which grooves along with R&B slickness and upbeat sentimentalism but, with lines like "Gotta feelin' higher than high", is tortuously bland.

Lisa Stansfield gives a performance of staid professionalism - the set has obviously been rehearsed ad nauseam. The tunes are banged out one after the other with barely an interruption for chit-chat, which would get in the way of getting the show over and done with. She says little other than the ritualistic "C'mon Wembley!" yelps when leading a few clapathons. Lisa seems quite introverted, only coming out and surfing on the crowd's energy in a late arrival, "All Around The World". She can inject a little razzamatazz when she wants to. But after four years away, quite how genuinely passionate she is about this pop malarkey is a mystery. Where is Stansfield's evangelical need to be number one again?