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LISA HANNIGAN: SUBTLE BEAUTY BUILT ON TRADITIONS

June 5, 2017

Vivid Live

Lisa Hannigan

Drama Theatre, Opera House, May 30

 

There is folk music at the root of everything that Lisa Hannigan does, but folk music is not really what she does at all.

 

Certainly the basis of many of her melodies, the essence of some of her story telling and the basics of her instrumentation (acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, drums – but no bass on this tour, with the kickdrum often providing as a kind of bass line) draw from long Irish and British traditions.

 

And if you’re Irish, slight of build, have a voice that seems simultaneously earthy and angelic, and begin your show with a solo version of the winding, misty Fall, which opens with the lines “hide your horses, hold your tongue, hang the rich and spare the young”, folk is going to come up in conversation.

 

But one of the consistently stimulating things about Hannigan’s songs is that she builds and continues to explore away from those roots so that definitions begin to matter less and less.

 

Part of that is the rhythms: whether subtle in their shifts such as Funeral Suit (a love song, despite its title) and Lille, fluid in its movement in Snow (the first to show the sensitive contributions of guitarist John Smith and drummer Ross Turner), or exploratory in Flowers.

 

But Flowers is also an example of the brooding alternative pop/rock influences on Hannigan who brings little bits of Cohen, Faithfull and (Beth) Gibbons to the party in – here’s that word again - subtle ways. There’s more at play here beneath the benign surface.

 

When you add the easy and quite appealing charm, the way she seemed genuinely chuffed to be in this building (isn’t it good to see the Drama Theatre used for shows such as hers and Sampha’s? Let’s hope there’s more.) and then beautiful moments such as the encore’s unaccompanied Anahorish, sung with Smith, Hannigan makes a convincing case for more, preferably soon.

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