Lisa Stansfield: The Real Thing, at Center Stage

With a humility that was alternately charming, heart-breaking, and unnecessary, world class Brit soul songstress Lisa Stansfield returned to Atlanta, and its Center Stage Theater, after almost three decades.

Lisa Stansfield’s voice as always, is stunning. Her ability to turn me inside out with her deft build of each song, with a single emotional phrase, with a single aching note, is well intact. What was occasionally missing here, is the confidence of the Lisa Stansfield I’ve known since my high school years, and the Lisa Stansfield of my twenties when on stage at House of Blues, Los Angeles, 1997.

— This article features THREE Libro Musica Live! videos from this event —

If you’re unfamiliar with this artist as an international superstar, watch her match epic vocalist George Michael, toe-to-toe, in their outstanding duet singing Queen’s “These Are the Days of Our Lives”, at their star-studded tribute to Freddie Mercury, at Wembley Stadium in 1992.

For those of us who know her catalog well, who know the key changes and the high and low notes of each song, her show at Center Stage here in October became a bit of a guessing game as to whether she’d decide to hit them, because several times she chose not to. But over the course of the evening, she would hit all of them at different moments throughout the show, proving her skill is still there, hand in hand with the emotive talent that can still crush me as her song “All Woman” (from Real Love, 1991), does with such bittersweet deliciousness after all this time.

Lisa Stansfield “All Woman”

If you’ve ever been a vastly under-appreciated housewife, do watch this video through (with tissues within reach) and then make sure you’re with a man who knows, loves, laughs with, likes, and makes proper love to the woman underneath the stresses of real life; and if not, leave him. Hearing it again live after living through a couple decades and a bad marriage, “All Woman” touched me all the more — not just from the cutting empathy I felt hearing it in my relative youth, but from feeling deeply understood myself.

The last time I’d seen Lisa live (in Los Angeles, twenty-one years ago on her promotional tour for So Natural, 1993), it turned out the to be the second-to-last time she’d perform in a U.S. music venue till this year’s tour. And it was twenty-eight years ago, at Center Stage, that she’d last given Atlanta her all. On behalf of my now-fellow Atlantians, we were passionately grateful.

“Thank you so much. It is really really is very very moving for all of us. I’ve not been here for so so long. And I was feeling kind of sort of apprehensive, and I thought, what’s everyone going to think of me, and it’s going okay! And that’s good! And do you want me to sing the song? Are you going to sing the song?” — Lisa Stansfield, Center Stage, Atlanta, 2018

She’d been here in 1990 to support her very first album, Affection (1989), a worldwide top ten sensation, and its international hit single, “All Around the World.”

You know this one. You can’t help singing along with it. And you know better than to think it’s an easy-slam-dunk karaoke song. Only a music genius can make a repetitive-lyric’d song like this sound like an evolving story; one with tension, climax, and denouement. Lisa Stansfield is one such genius.

So as a group, with our own imperfect voices masked by the joy of singing this classic en masse, we sang with Lisa, and she let us.

Lisa Stansfield “All Around The World”

But she is touring to promote her latest album, Deeper (2018). Lisa opened her Center Stage show with two cuts from it — “Everything” and the title cut — then sprinkled three of more throughout her hits, and lastly began her encore with “Butterflies”. I might have switched out this swinging-grooved song with the earlier-performed driven beat of the powerfully swaggering “Hercules” as the encore opener.

Or, perhaps “Treat Me Like a Woman”, from The Moment (2004). It too is a stadium-shaking anthem, to another degree. It’s sexy AF, it gets people dancing, and it’s one of her crowning achievements.

Lisa Stansfield “Treat Me Like A Woman”

She is all woman to be sure, and the weaver of hundreds of the sexy moments of my life, but movement is not Lisa’s strong-suit live on stage. Ironically, so much of the output from this singer not known for her dancing is supremely wonderful dance music. She has FOURTEEN Billboard Dance Chart hits; TEN of them top tens, and SEVEN of them number ones. Even from her most recent effort, Deeper is the source of this boogie-to number-six-charting single on the U.S. Dance Charts…

Lisa Stansfield “Never Ever”

Not to be confused with my favorite Stansfield song, “Never, Never Gonna Give You Up”, and the super-sexy-for-all-the-same-reasons outstanding “Never Gonna Fall” (the first cut off the same album) — “Never Ever”, off Deeper, is a perfect Lisa Stansfield disco anthem, right up her disco soul alley — joyful and great to shimmy to live and with a thousand other Lisa Stansfield fans.

I wonder — are Seven (2014) (try “So Be It”), and The Moment (try “Say It to Me Now”), and Face Up (2001) (try “Let’s Just Call It Love”) some of Lisa’s own least favorite albums? In this performance, she hadn’t included a single song off any of these last-most-recent three, and only one off her eponymous album, Lisa Sansfield (1997) — “Never Never Gonna Give You Up”.

It’s a fabulously sexy Barry White cover about dedication to your life partner, and my favorite Lisa Stansfield song. Being single again, hearing this precious song live reminded me that I still believe in true love that’s made to last and last. And though I in no way need that love to be right around the corner, I was moved to tears, and moved to move.

Lisa Stansfield “Never, Never Gonna Give You Up”

Deeper hadn’t yet captured my soul in the way Real Love, Lisa Stansfield, So Natural, and The Moment had right away. But with that said, the live performances of its songs we heard on this night, with this fantastic 10-piece band, and a truly excellent and striking backup singer, sounded more lush in a way that has moved me to give Deeper another chance.

Deeper‘s first cut (and this evening’s first song), “Everything”, was a curious U.K. Soul Chart topper. The album version sounds like an homage to the sound of Lisa’s songs circa 1989. And yes, Affection was still to this date Lisa Stansfield’s most successful album, but its songs sound like they were produced on maybe a single machine. Yes, those songs were outstanding, brilliant songs produced on perhaps just one machine, but they’re sooooo very 1989.

Then now live, with a full band, “Everything” was wonderful. It was classic, but not too-classic, Lisa, even if it started with some sound issues she’d had to correct initially, and continued with what I thought was way too much echo. Her incredible voice is enough. She may not know it, but we do.

And the title cut, “Deeper”, is perfect Lisa, both live and recorded. Romantic sensuality, par none.

Speaking of romantic sensuality, the climax of the show IMHO had been a reworking of “Time to Make You Mine”. In fact, I’m disappointed our publisher hadn’t chosen it as one of the videos he’s sharing with you via Libro Musica Live! Perhaps you can poke him till he gives in.

What you missed if you hadn’t caught this tour, was a pared-down, chilled-out, near-acoustic arrangement of the mid-tempo song of seduction, that midway shifted to a geared-up dancing sway-beat arrangement. Successful, and delightful.

Lisa Stansfield’s “Time to Make You Mine”

As perhaps Ms. Stansfield most overtly sexual tune, the album version of “Time to Make You Mine” (Real Love), has deep sex-machine grooves supporting near-whispered lyrics about anticipating intercourse, for real. Don’t listen, don’t watch, if you’re not in a baby-making mood and have your partner in arms-reach, or at least booty-call-reach. It’s my #2 Lisa Stansfield song, maybe soon to be your favorite…

Another example of one of her new songs that sounds great both on the album and in front of us live, is “Hole In My Heart”. Here once again, Lisa Stansfield deftly navigates the flip side of romance, the hurt of still loving someone terribly bad for her, with tender beauty.

Lisa Stansfield “Hole In My Heart”

Encore: More Lisa Stansfield Please

“We’ve got to live together if we’re gonna be free
We’ve got to find the answer right now
We’ve got to live together
We’ve got to see each other for whatever we are
We’ve got to solve the problem, right now
We’ve got to live together” — “Live Together”, Lisa Stansfield

Lisa closed with “Live Together” from her very first album, acknowledging that it is a pointed assertion regarding the current socio-political climate (my words not hers), and outro’d with a joyful cover of Candi Staton’s “Young Hearts”.

I am so very glad I did not let this show pass me by. I’m still smiling. #ListenLive

Artist: Lisa Stansfield
Venue: Center Stage, at Center Stage Theatre
Locale: Atlanta, Georgia
Date: Thursday, October 18, 2018
Event: The Deeper Tour
Photography/Videography: Antonius Maximus Rex, for Libro Musica

Kari Leigh London Written by: