Decked out with baubles and shimmering tinsel, The Empire Music Hall was filled with festive flare to pave way for Lisa Hannigan’s sold out Belfast show. Safe from the relentless winter weather, the multitude of ticket-holders settled into the venue with a pint and flocked around the empty stage for what promised to be the perfect show to gift-wrap 2016.
As the lights dimmed, opening act Heather Woods Broderick walked out onto the stage and sat at a solitary chair, her Epiphone SG guitar nestled in her hands. Relatively unknown in this neck of the woods, Broderick lulled the restless crowd with her haunting guitar riffs and deeply moving voice. Varying between guitar, piano, and percussion, the audience grew fonder and fonder with every song. As she finished her set, the crowd had all been converted to Heather Woods Broderick’s unique brand of forlorn folk.
With the tranquil piano chords for ‘Ora’ rippling in the background, a humble Lisa Hannigan stepped onto the stage and made her way towards the microphone. Hundreds of cheering voices quickly dwindled into a hush as Lisa began to effortlessly fashion the mesmerizing vocals. By the time the first song had finished, the Empire Music Hall was as captivated and attentive as a church congregation.
Lisa and her band picked up the audience with the bubbly Sea Sew classic ‘Pistachio’. Tapping a maraca freely against her hip, she swayed her way through the jazz number with ease. As she danced, it became clear just how comfortable she had become on stage: singing and dancing as though she were at home listening to the radio. Charming the crowd, Hannnigan even showcased her strange and newly-acquired talent for singing backwards, floating her way though dreamy new track ‘Undertow’ with ease.
Giving her band a brief moment of respite from the sweltering stage, Lisa performed the adorable ‘Passenger’ on her ukulele. She dedicated the song Paul – a dedicated fan who had been to every one of her Belfast gigs. Coincidentally, I had been standing beside Paul the entire night, but unfortunately at this particular moment Paul was in the loo, and so missed half of the song. Luckily, he heard Lisa’s dedication and hurried back into the crowd just in time to catch the tail-end of his idol’s tribute.
With the concert being so close to Christmas, Lisa couldn’t resist performing her rendition of ‘Silent Night’ (with audience participation, of course). Lisa Hannigan has released her version of Silent Night with all proceeds going to the Home Sweet Home campaign to combat homeless in Ireland. You can buy the song here: https://lisahannigan1.bandcamp.com/track/silent-night,
Her set continued with a perfect interweaving of both old and new songs: floating from the heartwarming ‘Funeral Suit’, to the bitter scorn of ‘Flowers’, to the haunting glimmer of ‘We The Drowned’ to the timid beauty of ‘Lille’. Finally, Lisa rounded off her set with the toe-tapping ‘Knots’, which left the crowd itching for an encore. Fortunately, they were not made to wait for very long, and Lisa returned to the stage with her keyboard-player and opening act Heather Woods Brodreick to perform an a cappella version of Seamus Heaney poem ‘Anahorish’, she told Queen’s Radio is her favourite song to perform live.
Between the completely mesmerizing vocals, and the visible delight of everyone on stage, Lisa Hannigan and her band put on one of the warmest, most intimate performances of 2016. And better than that, they made it all look easy.
You can listen to Queen’s Radio’s pre-show interview with Lisa Hannigan here: http://www.queensradio.co.uk/qr-music-interview-with-lisa-hannigan/.