‘Jesus has the best venues’ says Gavin Glass during his opening slot for Lisa Hannigan at St. George’s, Bristol. A long-time member of Hannigan’s band, Glass is a fine song smith in his own right. His relaxed repartee between songs, which include the sublime Just Like Rome, primes the room for the easeful, yet stirring, show that follows.
St. George’s is an impressive room. High-ceilinged with Greek pillars running along the side, it bequeaths a kind of calm upon an audience but, as the room is full, there’s not a little expectation in the air. This is an artist, after all, who secured a Mercury nomination with her debut. So, can Hannigan surpass Sea Sew?
The answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ From the opening bars of her set to its closing moments, Lisa Hannigan beguils the audience. Charismatic without having to resort to ‘hey it’s great to be here’ schmaltziness, the sheer delight she takes in performing is infectious.
Lille, An Ocean And A Rock and in particular I Don’t Know are all played and sung with aplomb – Lisa’s six piece band add weight and nuance to her songs, and veer away from sameness. But it is the selections from Passenger that show Hannigan is becoming a songwriter of genuine class. Her voice skates and spins around numbers like What’ll I Do and Nowhere To Go. Donagh Molloy, John Smith and Gavin Glass add harmonies at just the right moments, adding to the songs but letting them breath too.
Knots shows that Hannigan can write the foot-stomping, radio-owning hit she deserves; many in the audience add their own percussion with gusto. A Sail is a subtle, moving gem and Paper House is, to these ears, one of 2011’s most majestic and essential songs.
At the end of the encore, St. George’s is on its feet. Jesus may have the best rooms - but he can’t take credit for the tunes.