The Mancunion

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Live/Album: Lissie

Lissie’s solo performance failed to live up to the expectations that her brilliant forthcoming album ‘My Wild West’ had promised


“Desmond is a prick” were the words that opened this very late running set. Lissie had been stuck on a train from Edinburgh for 8 hours to get to Manchester, and the crowd who had been standing around from 7.30 was going to need some winning back around when she finally took to the stage at around 10.30, pretty much the time the gig would have originally ended. The fact the crowd ranged from newborns to the elderly did not help her case; space on the walls of Academy 2 was quickly taken up with tired concert goers propping themselves up to stop themselves falling asleep while they waited.

I was joined at the gig by my mum, who commented that she would normally be asleep by the end of Strictly Come Dancing on a normal Saturday night and was less than impressed with the late start; I tried to persuade her that Lissie would soon wake her up, but she ended up leaving the gig early. Storm Desmond caused havoc across the country last weekend, but while it can be blamed for the late start, unfortunately I don’t think it can it be blamed for the fact that we were not really woken up even when Lissie finally appeared on the stage.

We had seen her play with a full band at V Festival in Chelmsford, where she had thrown off her shoes and danced with an energy that infected the audience and got everyone on their feet. This gig turned out to be quite a contrast from our first experience of her live. Sensing the atmosphere of the room Lissie tried to engage with the audience and asked for requests, telling us she’d scrap her set list, giving us a glimpse of the free spirit we remembered from previous gigs, but she then had to refuse many of the requests as she would need her band to play them. Lissie told the crowd she didn’t think people would turn out to “see just her and her guitar” and by this point I was beginning to wish I hadn’t. Lissie’s power, for me, had rested in her meshing of beautiful folk lyrics with the power and energy of a rock concert, with many comparing her to a mix between Stevie Nicks and Chrissie Hynde.

The crowd remained on-side throughout, shouting support at a clearly exhausted Lissie and her skeletal voice/guitar combo managed to fill the sonic passages of Academy 2 to an impressive extent. However, given the raw emotion which is prevalent in her records, I was disappointed that this direct and intimate performance did better encapsulate this aspect of her songwriting. Whether or not this was due to circumstances outside of her control, I soon found myself switching off from the songs that she was singing, and listening instead to the way I’d hoped the performance would play out in my head; particularly given my preview of her brilliant forthcoming album.

Catching a Tiger, Lissie’s first album was compared to a 70s Fleetwood Mac style and her second album, Back to Forever, moved into the 80s with fist-pumping lyrics that really got me interested in her music. Her third album, My Wild West, is another stark change of style, to reflect her move from California back to the Midwest and a return to her roots. The album is beautiful and meditates on a range of emotions from depression and isolation to a sense of renewal and empowerment. It demands a compressive listen; only then can a rich and affecting emotional spectrum be experienced.

It still has touches of the powerful, socially conscious lyrics within Back to Forever, especially on ‘Daughters’; an empowering feminist anthem, inspired by the Liberian peace activist and Nobel Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. In fact, the whole album has a strong focus on the female influences in her life, which have helped her to become the self-assured lyricist and (usually) confident performer that she is.

The gig may not have infused me with the energy and passion I was used to experiencing at Lissie’s gigs, however her album on a rainy day in Manchester with deadlines looming has lifted my spirits, and I’m sure that it will prove to be yet another success story for Lissie. I can only hope that future performances are able to better encapsulate its magic.

Live: 5/10 Album: 8/10

  • Mag Leahy

    I’d be pretty frazzled, stressed and emotional if I had a day like that. I think I’d be chasing my tail and struggle to get into zen to play a gig at 10:30 at night to a crowd of very tired people I’d felt I’d let down. So fair dues for the effort involved in getting there and for any attempt made above sitting down and just bursting into tears! :) These things happen in life. Plans go awry. Jenny hope your next Lissie gig is really great! I’ve only seen her alone on this tour so I’m very excited about the rock side after the brave solo and stripped back side, especially after your comments on how dang good that is. Peace out.