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Concert Review: Lisa Hannigan at The Citi Performing Arts Center (Boston, MA)

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Lisa Hannigan is an Irish singer/songwriter who is most recognized for her work in conjunction with Damien Rice. She accompanied him on lead vocals—as on on his 2002 debut album, O—gaining much of her experience over six years spent touring and collaborating alongside him. Her time took toll, and allowed her to gain enough praise to set out on her own for a solo career.

Her debut album, Sea Sew—released in February of this year here in the U.S.—has seen much support from her fan base, carrying the biggest impact natively overseas.

I came out to witness Hannigan's first outing as a solo artist, at The Citi Performing Arts Center (formerly the Wang Center) in Boston. Hannigan is in support of David Gray, and it would seem that both artists have much to bestow on this tour, with Hannigan promoting Sea Sew and Gray touring behind his new album, Draw the Line. Which would be his first studio album in four years, having not had much critical success since White Ladder (1998). It would be best to say that the pair have a pretty hot torch to carry throughout this worldwide tour.

As soon as Lisa Hannigan’s performance was underway, though, I felt it—this certain dryness filled my critical thoughts. I wanted so badly to enjoy her, but it all came up rather short.

She is talented in her own right to be sure, yet nothing was different about her. The word I have to use to describe would be 'typical’. The typical opening act performing to top, but without receiving much faith back from the audience. It's a case in which the audience is so heavily concentrated on the headlining act that it's almost impossible to sit still for the one before.

Her instrumentals were amazing, truly. Her talent does not just show in her ability to sing, but I would say mainly through her musicianship. She masters many instruments, holding an incredible rhythm all the while.

However, I have to turn my thumbs down overall. As much as I would love to praise Lisa Hannigan with the highest of honors, there is something about her music that does not speak to me as deeply as I would like it to.

Her music makes me feel like I'm sitting out on Grandma's back porch in a fuzzy knit-wool sweater. Except it's itchy—and it’s July. There is a certain weight heeded much throughout her music that cannot be overlooked. But in that same direction it is left soft, with a texture comparable to that of tapioca pudding. You can either be a strong musician or you can be a weak one. You can’t mix elements of both in between your music and expect to come out teetering to the powerful side.

I was left feeling almost helpless; I sat there trying to pour all of my emotion into what she was giving out to the audience, but my senses just wouldn’t budge. I don’t want to sound too demoralizing, but maybe she should have toured with someone not as great—David Gray is one of the most amazingly talented and poignant acts I have seen this year—so as to leave a little of the stage lights for her.

It seems to me she was doing her best to underwhelm the audience, which is quite a pity. I don’t see that she has all it takes to stand on her own as a solo artist. And so, every emotion remaining under my skin once Hannigan exited the stage—and as Gray approached it—soon disintegrated into dust. It just didn’t matter anymore.

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About Cindal Lee Heart

  • http://carolinehagood.typepad.com/ Caroline Hagood

    Sounds good. I’ll have to explore…

  • Holly Spradlin

    You’re an idiot. Lisa Hannigan is more talented than you give her credit for. I thought she was absolutely outstanding!

  • John K Anderson

    I find this review way off base. I just saw the San Francisco show and you must have the artists mixed up. David Gray was the headliner but Lisa Hannigan stole the show. As much as I am a David Gray fan, his music misses the mark, sounds the same and tries too hard to be something its not. It comes off like a Vegas act in the end. Conversely, Lisa Hannigan was spectacular, authentic and engaging. She didn’t have enough time on stage, but when she finish, she received a standing ovation which rarely happens for an opening band.

  • Dorothy Abbott

    I have seen Lisa live, and was blown away by her talent, warmth and enthusiasm. Having read many reviews of her concerts, yours is the only one I’ve found to be negative. Lisa’s album, Sea Sew, was nominated for the Mercury Prize this year, which is much coveted in the UK. Perhaps these experienced judges have it all wrong, but I very much doubt it. As another reviewer pointed out, I find your review of Ms. Hannigan way off base and so badly written. Grandma’s porch, tapioca – are you for real? I will not call you an idiot (tempted though I am), as someone else did, but I would politely suggest you not give up the day job, as this review is ridiculous in more ways than one.

  • Mark Morgan

    What an idiot. I went to the Denver show only because of David Gray. I had never even heard of Lisa Hannigan. After the second song I realized I was witnessing greatness. Seeing a performer of this caliber, early in their career, is a gift. How the reviewer missed it is mind boggling. She wasn’t given the full sound or lighting system, which is typical for an opening act, but her pure talent carried her. It was simply honest music in its purest form. When David Gray came out it was immediately apparent we were looking at a highly produced, “show”. As a huge David Gray fan I was expecting something a bit more personal from him. Funny how Lisa Hannigan’s show turned out to be everything David Gray’s show wasn’t. I left the show immediately looking for her new CD and didn’t even care about getting the new David Gray CD. By any chance is your grandfather the reviewer who thought the Beatles sucked?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/cindal-lee-heart cindal lee heart

    No but my father did. I also, believe the Beatles are overrated. :)