‘We have a zero tolerance policy towards racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, harassment, ableism’ reads the sign. A strong start. After an almost 4 year wait, owing to a cancelled gig and then an intervening pandemic of epic proportions, Lissie was back in Brighton as part of her supporting tour of Carving Canyons, her latest studio release. She also spoke to BN1 last year – as part of the release.
A carefully thought out venue
Access has clearly been thought about a lot in terms of where to play, as well as how to layout and set up a venue for a concert of all standing individuals. Unlike other chaotic scenes – complete with harassed looking ‘roadies’ – the Merch desk is actually set out clearly, with space around it. Equal prominence is given to the 2 opening acts; it’s also notable how, in case of drink, security outside as you queued up give you a wrist band, by way of controlling the crowd. This is comforting, in a way, especially post pandemic; there is still an element of re-learning how to be social, in a way. (Some concerts I have been to lately have been utterly chaotic, and frankly anxiety inducing to the extreme, owing to a lack of preparation. Hardly fun.)
“the heartbroken girl, the wiser woman, the ambitious careerist all at once”
Lissie as a live act is far better when accompanied by a band – guitar, drums, bass, other percussion sometimes. It’s a marked departure from the era of the ‘piano retrospective’ album, as well as when she use to tour by herself, solo. There is an edge to this – something that is just that little bit more infectious, and perhaps more nuanced. There is a raw quality that we can all see in ourselves – she is the heartbroken girl, the wiser woman, the ambitious careerist all at once. The just like us feeling creates a command of the audience – for there is nothing more powerful than a woman who gives herself up to the music in that moment.
For all the values the venue purports to have, it doesn’t escape notice how a group of men throughout have come here simply for the purpose of just getting absolutely, well, trashed. ‘Why bother to be like that when you pay to see a concert?’ I wonder out loud to the woman with me. This includes touching of a blonde woman, the creepy touching of her hair – running fingers through her hair – as well as obnoxiously shouting, and more. A more proactive undertaking by the venue could potentially be needed; I want to cringe to the depths of my soul on seeing a revival of nineties hip-hop dancing by the end of the evening.
When it comes to the set list, there is memorable hit after hit after hit.
Remember When I’m Alone, with the seductive bassline and longing lyrics? What about the haunting Hero, lead single from My Wild West? For an independent artist, this is really quite something – and to still be creating after all this time. That being said, I think the set list could have been planned a little bit better. Carving Canyons speaks to the need to sit with your feelings – but it’s almost turbulent by way of richoeting between the different moods. There’s a case to be made for musical ability as well as versatility – but pacing the big ballads like Oh Mississippi against the more upbeat tunes like Chasing The Sun did feel a bit rackety at times.
Highlights to the night? When I’m Alone is always going to be a crowd pleaser, as well as Further Away (Romance Police) – the revival of which is good to see, complete with a fully fledged band and eighties style guitar solo of almost 50 seconds (ish). There is less of an activist artist now, compared to what we would have seen on previous tours – but that may well be a good thing. Sad, a song from the new album, means Lissie has the audience in the palm of her hand; it is something that we can all identify with, after all. In Sleep, the tradition closing number, has become a grungy, moody track with a little bit of a dirty funk-esque bass. Night Moves, another single from the new album, closes the show – and it speaks to a new tomorrow. It is so utterly wonderful to see live music after all this time.