First Night: British soul ace improves on a sparkling start

Lynden David Hall Brighton Centre
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WHETHER PLAYING a mean blues or boogie on the guitar, or singing his own songs about carnal love, God, absent fathers and the transmigration of souls, Lynden David Hall is absolutely great. With a repertoire such as that, he would be garlanded with highbrow praise if he were a white American of alternative country and signed to an independent label called something like Dog Do.

Instead, he's a black British soul act on EMI. Not only does his music have to be written in a foreign language - that of American R&B - he is further disadvantage by being the latest in a long line of Brit-Soulers who have had to fight against premature comparisons with past greats, usually dead. Despite releasing two killer singles from his superb debut album of last year, Medicine 4 My Pain, Hall's success was still not assured.

This opening date of Hall's first major national tour as a headliner was so good, however, that there can't be much doubt that he will prevail in the end. With a nifty four-piece band and two backing singers and a set of tunes already familiar from the album to most of the audience, Hall was brilliant from the first note, yet continued to get even better. Though his niche in the market is the rather repro-styled Nu Classic Soul (terrible spelling goes with the territory) in the manner of Maxwell, D'Angelo and Chico DeBarge, Hall is at least the equal of any of them.

Enhanced credibility comes from his musicianship - he wrote, produced or co-produced and performed almost everything on the album - and his love-God credentials, which are substantial. Tall, rangy and shaven of head, Hall more than looked 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 straps on a new persona, projecting an endearing vulnerability on gentle songs such as the beautiful "Do Angels Cry" and "Crescent Moon".

All in all, Hall was fantastic. He could even be the new Al Green. Whoops.

The tour continues around Britain until 18 and 19 March where it ends at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, London.