Hannah White - The Lexington
We have to admit that we did not think our return to live indoor reviewing would be at The Lexington, nothing against the venue itself, it is one of our favourite small venues, however our indelible memories are of a packed pub waiting for the doors to open, then queues snaking around the walls as the doors did open and finally throngs of people gathered tightly together to watch the likes of Ward Thomas unveil a batch of brand new songs, or Twinnie high kick into the air. However with tonights show being split into 2, one for early birds and one for night owls and promises of social distanced seating it was time to once again watch a small intimate indoor gig.
There are course a few differences, and The Lexington have got it pretty much nailed down very effectively, to enter we had to check in on the Governments Track & Trace app via a QR code, and we were then ushered ( masks on ) to a seated waiting area. The pub itself was busy and noisy but everyone was seated and all was well. We were then invited to take our positions in the venue itself upstairs, where small square tables with candles were set up, socially distanced probably cutting capacity by 75% but certainly leaving you feeling reassured that you were safe. Drinks were ordered via the Butlr app and were speedily brought over and at the end we exited by a different staircase to the one that we entered by.
On taking a seat, it immediately hit just what has been missing from our lives, the lights, the anticipation of an empty stage set up with equipment, the sound of Americana playing out over the PA and the general pre gig interaction.
Hannah must surely be the first person to announce and play a nationwide tour under current measures, managing to stop off and showcase many of the venues most at risk from months of inactivity.
With her regular band unable to join her, we have to say she managed to assemble some pretty good replacements with husband Kieron on electric and acoustic guitar, Andy Phillips on drums, a man so unobtrusive we didn't even spot he was on the stage until halfway through the first song, but his playing, so unfussy yet always exactly what was required was a delight. Making up the rest of the band tonight were two performers who might usually headline in their own right, Michelle Stodart, a permanent blur of movement the whole evening on bass and Daisy Chute rounding out the overall sound with her banjo playing.
As the 11 song set opened with "The Darkness" introduced as a song about "Guilt" from her fantastic current album, it is hard to express just how magical it felt to once again be in a small venue, close up to the artist. Keiron's guitar playing took us off into Portishead territory, and Hannah's singing was beautifully full of expression in a song that has plenty of changes in tempo and volume as well as an air of mystery as Hannah declares
"they never found the gun!".
The sound of applause at the end caused Hannah to exclaim "Wow we're in a live music venue"
As Hannah launched into the story behind "Rosa", it reminded us just how honest an artist she is, she is completely open and will share almost anything - the intro was something of a sad and shocking indictment of the world that we can sometimes live in - the only sliver of comfort being that it inspired a great song. This song saw the coming together of the three female voices on the chorus to make the most beautiful sound we've heard in months/ It was to be an excellent feature of the evening and at any time you could almost close your eyes and be transported to Nashville - it really was that good, in fact Michelle gave a knowing nod to drummer Andy at the end, they knew they had created something special.
A complete change of pace for the next song which is a storming as yet unreleased effort called "I'm The One"? It was time to marvel at just how superb the sound quality had been on the evening, once again the trio of vocals were a delight, but the sound was able to pick out Daisy's delicate banjo picking while later also able to handle Keiron's searing solo. The song has a lovely pace and sumptuous chorus that Hannah could have played a hundred times and still we would not have tired of it
Jokingly referring to themselves as the Maudlin Sisters it was a return to the current album for "Pay Me A Compliment", a song that is just so quintessentially country. This time the trio of voices accentuated the gospel element that the track exudes, while Keiron threw in a delightful bluesy guitar solo. It was a twin acoustic guitar sound for"Let My River Run?". that showed Hannah to have possibly the most authentic American sounding voices on the circuit while the lyrics remain decidedly UK based.
"A Separation" was a unique song on the night, not quite a capella yet not far off it for the instruments really played a secondary role barely sketching out the tune allowing the three female voices to reign supreme. It once again had a spiritual feel to it and was a thing of sheer beauty. From one curiosity to another as the next song "You're the one" opened to something of an atmospheric soundscape created by Keiron's excellent guitar work and some great drumming. It progressed into an almost Native American tribal beat, totally absorbing with a dreamy electric guitar solo - it is moments like this that live performing were made for.
With Keiron now also joining in on vocals we moved back to more conventional country tune of "Take Me Back" a delightful song about nostalgia. By now the home straight was approaching, "Fire To Your Flame" saw Michelle and Daisy provide some excellent backing vocals while the final song "Together We Can Make It Home" was a simply
glorious way to finish with a spontaneous outburst of audience clapping that you'll never get on a live stream!!
There was only time for a quick encore which saw Hannah and Keiron remain on stage, for a simply devastating "All I Needed Was A Hand", with lyrics that could reduce you to tears especially when performed like this, with Hannah holding us in the palm of her hands.
Quite simply - LIVE MUSIC IS BACK - it may take a while for everyone to pluck up courage to return to intimate venues but if all events can be run as smoothly as this then there really is nothing to worry about. Top marks therefore go to The Lexington and to Hannah White and her band for reminding us just what a great experience live music can be.
Hannah's tour carries on for another week check https://www.hannahwhitemusic.com/tour-dates for details