Lloyd at Jazz Cafe, London | Live Review

Now on his fourth album, with eight years releasing music as a solo artist, ATL native Lloyd‘s recent belated UK success came as a genuine surprise. An atypically consistent new-school R&B artist, Lloyd has enjoyed some success in the US with his always-solid albums and early singles, but aside from his guest appearances on Ja Rule’s “Caught Up” and Young Money‘s top ten hit “Bedrock”, has rarely troubled the UK charts. That all changed last year when “Dedication To My Ex”, a single from his most recent album King of Hearts, found itself being heavily supported on UK radio; gaining massive airplay and eventually soaring to #3 in the charts and becoming Lloyd’s biggest worldwide hit.

This seemingly out-of-nowhere smash was all the more curious for anyone who had heard the track on Lloyd’s album, on which it existed as an almost entirely different song that would undoubtedly have caused some outrage among many of the old dears who were so enamored by the version they heard on the radio. It was this highly explicit album version that Lloyd performed at the second show of his UK tour on March 13, 2012, much to the shock of a handful of clearly newer fans – more on that later.

Lloyd took to the stage after a typically impressive, crowd-pleasing acoustic set from support act Bluey Robinson, which included covers of Craig David‘s UK R&B classic “Fill Me In,” Will Smith‘s Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song and the late Whitney Houston‘s “My Love Is Your Love.”

Accompanied by a tight live band, the former Murder Inc singer kicked off with material from his latest album, including crowd favourite “Cupid,” before heading back to his sophomore album for classic slow jam “Player’s Prayer”, much to the delight of the audience in attendance.

Running through familiar tracks old and new, the strength of Lloyd’s catalogue quickly became apparently as he performed forgotten hit-after-hit – everything from his debut single “Southside” to the recent Trey Songz and Young Jeezy-assisted banger “Be The One,” which was perhaps the highlight of the night and the one song that was delivered with genuine gusto.

Despite an endless supply of great songs to his name, Lloyd’s stagecraft was strangely lacking – not for a lack of trying, his set occasionally fell flat, let down by a lack of natural showmanship and stage presence. Much of the chat between songs came across as slightly insincere and contrived, and whilst this is frequently a weakness of many artists live, it only served to draw attention to his failings as a performer.

Clearly influenced by Michael Jackson‘s performance style and swagger, halfway through the show Lloyd performed a more-than-serviceable cover of the late legend’s classic “Human Nature.” Vocally, the singer wasn’t at his best on the night, although his falsetto was particularly impressive and a clear strength.

Despite a band who sounded fantastic, a willing crowd and one of the most underrated R&B catalogues of recent times, Lloyd’s live show was distinctly average. Despite his best attempts [and he certainly can’t be faulted for effort], the singer just lacks that fundamental spark that makes a great live performer; like a mis-shaped jigsaw, the pieces were all there but they didn’t quite fit.

My personal highlight came courtesy of the couple stood by me – clearly not long-term fans – who visibly winced at a well-known Nicki Minaj‘s [let’s just say it involves male facial hair] lyric during “Bedrock” and then left the venue prematurely upon hearing the repeated chorus of the real version of “Dedication To My Ex” [which, in case you haven’t heard it, features Lloyd pretty vulgarly and explicitly lusting after an ex-girlfriend’s va-jay-jay]. Schadenfreude perhaps, but their palpable distress might just have been the most entertaining moment of the entire night.

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