Lisa Hannigan – Alhambra – 10.02.2017

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost five years since I saw Lisa Hannigan playing in Lausanne. That gig was in a much smaller, more intimate venue, which is one reason I enjoyed it more than last night’s Antigel date in Geneva. But I think it was also because I have been finding it hard to get into her most recent album, At Swim. She remains a wonderful singer, a talented musician and a clever songwriter, but the newer songs feel a bit less immediate and somehow colder than those on her first two albums. I don’t think she played anything from her first album, Sea Sew, last night; and the songs from Passenger were among the best on the night.

Overall, as a musical experience it was really enjoyable. She was backed by drums, bass, guitar and keyboard, with all four musicians also contributing backing vocals. They created a really impressive sound together. While the newest album doesn’t have the hooks or gentle humour of the first two, it seems to be musically more complex. She does amazing things with her voice, riding over the top of the music and creating beautiful harmonies that sound almost dissonant at times. It was good, though, that she brought the set back to some of the warmer, more jaunty songs from time to time. It risked getting a bit too intense otherwise!

John Smith (who played guitar in her band) was the support act again, as in Lausanne, although I think he had less time than expected owing to an overrun by the opening act Melissa Kassab. (She’s a local lass, I think. She has a lovely voice and is a nice guitarist, but I felt her songs needed a bit more structure, or perhaps just some choruses. She played 8-10 songs, where 4-6 might have been more appropriate given the slot. Still, fair play to her for delivering a confident performance.) Mr Smith sounded a bit less like Ray Lamontagne than the previous times I’d seen him. He still has a powerful voice and plays the guitar beautifully. His between-song banter was entertaining but I would have preferred a bit less chat and a bit more music.

Coming back to Lisa Hannigan, here’s a nice performance of Fall, which is one of the best songs on the latest album.

2012: good reads and listens

With Robert’s arrival late last year I’ve had less time for reading, but we’ve still been listening to lots of music. So, in no particular order, these were the five books and albums that I enjoyed most during 2012 (all bought during the year, but not necessarily published/released this year):


  1. Little Gods by Anna Richards – freakishly tall girl tries to find her niche in the post-WWII world.
  2. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell – fastidious trader tries to stay on the straight and narrow when posted to a Dutch trading post in 19th century Japan.
  3. The Book of Chameleons by Jose Eduardo Agualusa – the story of an Angolan who sells personal histories, as narrated by a gecko.
  4. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín – Wexford lass finds out it’s not all that easy to escape small town Ireland in the 1950s.
  5. Deaf Sentence by David Lodge – onset of deafness makes tricky situations even trickier for a middle-aged college professor.


  1. There’s No Leaving Now by The Tallest Man on Earth –  if Bob Dylan were a Swedish hipster
  2. Passenger by Lisa Hannigan – equally catchy follow-up to Sea Sew
  3. Wounded Rhymes by Lykke Li – Florence and the Machine with a bit more character
  4. My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters And Men – very silly lyrics, very hummable tunes… Mumford & Sons meets Arcade Fire.
  5. What we saw from the cheap seats by Regina Spektor – a quirky lady sings quirky songs.

Didn’t see a whole lot of live music this year, but really enjoyed all that I did get along to: Lisa Hannigan, Of Monsters and Men, Suzanne Vega, Luka Bloom and Moya Brennan.

And, finally, when I told Nadine I was writing this post she said I should also mention that her favourite album was Ben Howard’s Every Kingdom.

Lisa Hannigan – Bleu Lézard – 08.05.2012

It’s been more than eight months since I posted a gig review here. For that I can mostly blame moving from Amsterdam to Geneva (fewer gigs on tap) and becoming a father (fewer opportunities to go out). So I was really pleased to be able to go to see Lisa Hannigan in Lausanne this week, in a tiny venue that was packed to the gills with a very appreciative audience. While my favourite artists don’t tend to play in this region all that often, the good thing is that, when they do, they play in small venues.

Lisa Hannigan managed to squeeze herself plus five band members onto the small stage, which also accommodated a drum kit, keyboards, a glockenspeil and something that I think is called a harmonium, plus the usual guitars, banjo, ukelele, bass, etc. So the venue was packed, the stage was packed, and it was hot and sweaty. But what a great gig! She played most of the tracks from her newest album Passenger, of which Safe Travels and What’ll I Do were my favourites. The Ray Lamontagne part on the duet O Sleep was taken by her guitarist John Smith, whose voice isn’t a million miles from that of the man he was filling in for. My friend Chantal reminded me that I had seen John Smith playing before. (I see now that I described him as a Ray Lamontagne soundalike at the time.)

From the first album, Sea Sew, she played five songs, the best of which were Ocean And A Rock and I Don’t Know, plus a really beautiful rendition of Lille (which she first attempted to sing in French, but forgot the lyrics). The encore included a tribute to the recently deceased Levon Helm of The Band: a very cool, almost unplugged version of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, with Lisa, John, and the keyboard player each taking a verse in turn, and some nice singing along from the audience.

My friend Marc bought Sea Sew on vinyl (CDs all sold out) and got her to sign it.

Marc with Lisa Hannigan

My blurry friend Marc with a blurry Lisa Hannigan