LISA HANNIGAN Live at Giardino di Via Filippo Re, Bologna 17th July

Lisa Hannigan at BOtanique

Lisa Hannigan is, for me, a female equivalent of David Gray. There’s no great similarity between these two artists in terms of background or singing style but both are the kind of commercially successful singer-songwriters that normally leave me cold.

What they share is a directness, charm and honesty that forces me to forget any elitist judgements about mainstream pop.

Both artists add enough of their own personality to a well-worn genre to convince me that they are not simply going through the motions or writing formulaic tunes.

Lisa Hannigan’s first ever concert in Bologna was well attended but by no means packed. The show was part of a month-long series of mainly acoustic shows under the heading BOtanique – Il Rock Respira (letting rock breathe).

The outdoor venue is grandly termed the city’s botanical gardens but is actually a modest green space attached to Bologna University’s physics faculty.

The relatively small attendance was due ,I’d say, to the pretty lame publicity on the part of the promoters. The songs Knots and What’ll Do have been getting a lot of airplay in Italy so I expected the show to be a sell out.

Those who weren’t there missed a real treat. This was a magical concert : good acoustics; great band; an informal, intimate venue and an enthusiastic audience of couples and families seated on the ground enjoying a warm sultry evening.

When Lisa began with a solo rendition of Little Bird,my favourite song from Passenger, I knew this was going to be something special.  Thereafter, she was joined by an all male five piece band. The one surprise in the line up is that there was no violinist – strings feature prominently in many of her recordings.

For the 90 minute show, she played a well paced set list which included eight of the ten songs from last year’s Passenger and half a dozen from 2008’s Sea Sew. Her latest album is one I’ve been playing to death and I’ve ignored the fact that there are some gems also on her solo debut  – Teeth and I Don’t Know sounded great live.

Lisa Hannigan is a pure-voiced singer, a gifted musician and a luminous presence on stage – with her warm, witty and relaxed personality, she effortlessly conveys a love of performing.

For the encore, she and the band (standing shoulder to shoulder) played a marvellous ensemble tribute to the late Levon Helm, a rendition of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down which moved me to tears.

This was one of those perfect shows where everything just felt right.

Related link:

My review of Passenger (Whisperin’ & Hollerin’)