Having not toured since 2005, Lisa Stansfield no longer fits her outfits.
''I had to have this dress altered," the slender singer explains, clutching at a bunched creation that reaches to the floor. "It's still not short enough. I might have to nip off and have it taken up." Eventually, she grabs great handfuls of the thing to sashay around the stage.
Otherwise, though, it's as if she's never been away. The blueprint for Adele and similar pop-soul singers who have reached a vast mainstream audience, Stansfield's music is still a predominantly 90s-sounding, Saturday-night soundtrack, with one-size-fits-all lyrics about learning to love yourself, being stronger than strong and reaching the highest high. When the 48-year old sings: "I can't dance, but I'll dance tonight", she may echo the thoughts of the chisel-jawed drinking men dragged here by their wives.
The band's smattering of 70s disco licks – and a Barry White cover – keep the crowd out of their seats, and the Rochdale superstar has no truck with artistic pretension. "This song is about a woman who fell in love with the wrong person," she explains. "So … she just kills 'er 'usband!" The better material from her new album, Seven, shows what her voice can do, though. Stupid Heart could be from Elvis's Vegas period. Conversation is a stripped down, tour de force of strength and vulnerability that suggests she is overdue a whole album of classic-sounding soul.
After that, the 1989 Coldcut collaboration People Hold On pumps the Italian house piano, while global smash All Around the World inevitably creates a singalong. After almost two hours, she finally scurries off, no doubt itching to get out of that dress.
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