Hannah White - Sweet Revolution Album Launch - Bush Hall
Rarely has Bush Hall seemed such a happy place, there was was a definite mixture of good will anticipation and pride that Hannah White had chosen the grandeur of Bush Hall, with it's chandeliers for her album launch. Although many can only have heard the 2 singles, Hannah's blistering shows over the summer and with Paul Carrack have given good indicators of the quality of what is likely to be revealed.
The evening would start with a short set from Danny George Wilson, the Danny of Danny & The Champions Of The World. It was a slightly odd set in some ways, Danny was lit in a perpetual red gloom and was stood slightly off centre stage. Flanked by regular guitarist Paul Lush, the pair would play the set on twin acoustic guitars, with chat pretty much being kept to a minimum.
Their set would open with a 3 minute instrumental, Danny adding in some harmonica at times, When he did start to sing it was for "The Truest Kind", rasping out the vocals over the sound of the twin acoustics. Danny was clearly equally happy to see Hannah get her album launched in style. Moving on to tales of the River Wandle with "Red Tree Song", the line "I want to stay here tonight" sung with such passion.
With Paul throwing in an acoustic solo and Danny adding some harmonica this was something of an epic. With little chat and songs running from one into the other we were soon at "Love And Truth" There was one final burst of Danny And The Champions magic with "These Days" but really this was set to be Hannah's night.
Not many artists get a standing ovation at the end of their gig, however more signs of that general bon homie in the room were provided when Hannah White received one just for taking the stage. It was not so much an appreciation of what was to come, more an acknowledgement of what it has taken to reach this point. The evening would see many musicians take to the stage as events unfolded but the core band were there for the start, excellent Emma Holbrook on drums, seemingly able to switch between the gentlest of brushes or a thumping back beat with little change in actual movement or expression. Michele Stodart would as ever be a perpetual blur on bass and backing vocals, while husband Keiron Marshall on guitar, backing vocals and MC duties would complete the ensemble, providing the perfect platform for Hannah to lead from the front.
Hannah was a combination of being overwhelmed at all of the people having turned out and happy at having this chance to finally set the "Sweet Revolution" album free into the world.
The set would start with Hannah laying down some acoustic guitar chords, Keiron would then introduce the electric guitar with Michele joining soon after with her warm silky smooth bass. The song we would later find out to be called "The Cross" - On the night the phrase "Let me introduce myself" was the phrase most prominent - the full lyrics Hannah would publish days later - and they powerfully match the passion with which they were delivered on the night. This was supposed to be a night for Hannah yet it was typical selflessness that her first thoughts would be the the plight of others less fortunate.
The ensemble would be joined on stage by Gerry Diver on fiddle and Lars Hammersland on keyboards as they launched into the pure sixties pop of the current single "Right On Time". Hannah's voice flying above the great combination behind her which took things to another level for the sumptuous chorus, Emma's drums would power out a signal each time that the chorus was to be repeated.
Moving on to "Ordinary Woman", after laying down a great introduction the fiddle player effected a noise by using three fingers to brush the strings as if he were clearing an invisible fly that had landed.
Hannah would declare "What you get is what you see" which is undoubtedly true however she is a most extraordinary woman!. With powerful backing vocals and later another melodic fiddle solo this was the sort of sound Bush Hall was built for!
Hannah has a tremendous range in her vocal styles and "The Aftershow" would indeed show that she can rock out with the best of them, the song starting with the band growling like a tiger itching to pounce, the drums and guitar just waiting to be unleashed. Hannah would spit out the vocals rapid fire with the band straining ever more building in volume until finally let loose on the chorus. By that point there was a sound explosion, Michele was bouncing up and down while playing bass, the Hammond organ sound swirled around Bush Hall while Emma's drums drove things along at pace. A glorious moment would see everyone fall silent for about five seconds before bursting back into life as Hannah cried "Ha!" - only eventually ending on Hannah's
"Here we go command".
Having shown they could rock, "River Run" would show a completely different side to the band, Michele would switch to play Keiron's electric guitar while he played another, Emma's percussion would be genteel and atmospheric while the piano would tinkle gently in the background. It all worked to place Hannah at the forefront of the attention. The chorus letting Hannah work melodic magic.
Hannah would then muse on what represented an act of revolution in these current times, "anything that's kind when we live in a world that's quite brutal" or "anything that is green and sustainable" - It all led into three part harmonies over Michele's insistent bass notes. With Keiron's guitar providing a great solo and the band carrying on despite hitting the odd technical difficulty it did not take away from the key observation of the song
"Being a woman in a man's world is an act of revolution"
An old song "Like We've Always Done" from the Nordic Connections album, would see the return of Jerry on fiddle on this stirring anthem with a definite Celtic feel on the night. Hannah and the band would once again shine on "Rosa", written for her daughter, glorious combined vocals and a fiddle solo all went to make it memorable. Hannah would declare "Hail The Fighter" written for Boris Johnson, another rocking tune during which Hannah and Kieron would go face to face during his guitar solo.
Hannah's writing has no limits, she will touch on any subject, the introduction to the next song dealing with the death of her father was hard to listen to, before she had even gently edged to the piano to start performing, yet her hope was that it would be a help to others. It left Bush Hall totally silent as Hannah picked out the introductory piano notes, on what was an imposing opening hinting that something of great importance was to follow. Hannah would sing the first few few lines, then with the help of her son James and Michele who would divide Bush Hall in half and turn it into a heavenly choir. It was an incredibly spiritual moment, showing the power of the human voice when hundreds become as one - Hannah memorably bring things to a close with the line "A light just dimmed tonight"
"One Night Stand" would start in a subtle way, with Emma's steady beat, the guitars and piano would join in, suitably muted until the chorus which would see Kieron and Michele on bass hit their strings with a venom, while providing backing vocals. On the album Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue makes an appearance on "A Celebration" however tonight the role would fall to Keiron to provide the male vocal. A lovely piano sound would ripple through the song as Hannah sounded positively angelic. It all made for a memorable husband and wife combination.
The ensemble of players would have one final addition in the shape of Daise Chute, for "One Foot" the sound initially just bass and drum was soon joined by Michele & Daisy on backing vocals. For this song Keiron would sit on a speaker and like the rest of us look on approvingly with a sense of pride at the sound being created. With the audience providing finger clicking this was a moment so sit back and enjoy the harmonies. The main set could only close in one way with the first single from "Sweet Revolution" - "Chains Of Ours" which remains a wonder and saw all the evenings players join in, with Daisy now on banjo to make a song that you could listen to on repeat indefinitely. It would spontaneously see the audience rise and start dancing in the aisles and see Keiron deliver a truly screeching solo.
The encore was a slightly unusual choice in "Car Crash" - not that it isn't the most compelling of songs, it has been responsible for some of the most amazing live performances of 2023 - yet with the crowd now all standing and invigorated, it maybe lost a little of its impact tonight and might have been served better to have been in the main set - however that's just a minor scheduling quibble, it was still a totally engrossing piece of drama as Hannah laid herself as bare as any artist has ever done.
As an evening like the album it was an unqualified success and Hannah can consider "Sweet Revolution" to be well and truly launched.