Hannah Aldridge and Lilly Hiatt: Too Much Talent For One Small Room
The Green Note, Camden, London.
A couple of years ago I wrote of the massive impact Hannah Aldridge made on me when I saw her supporting Holly Williams. Now I’ve had the huge pleasure of seeing and hearing a (comparatively) new talent in the shape of Lilly Hiatt, supporting Hannah.
It’s arguable they were co-headliners as they had equal billing and equal time on stage. But what the hell, it’s not an argument worth indulging in. Both of these women are massively talented; for me the only difference lay in that I knew some of Hannah’s songs and none of Lilly’s.
The Green Note is a small venue. Restaurant and bar with a stage squeezed into a corner. Very intimate, so that even at the back you are not far from the stage. Capacity is probably about 70. On a night like this, this intimacy is both a strength and a weakness.
The strength is that we are so close to the performers; we hear every word, see every expression, feel every song. It’s more like a gathering of friends than artists performing for an audience. I chat for a couple of minutes at the bar with Hannah and at the intermission have a decent amount of time talking with Lilly while she signs her last CD. It’s a joy to share these moments.
The weakness is that they shouldn’t be here; instead of playing to tens of people they should be performing in front of hundreds, if not thousands. These women are major musical talents. Unfortunately the world doesn’t know that. Yet.
So what about the music, you’re asking. Were they any good?
Were they any good? Of course they were!
Lilly, despite initial technical problems, pushed them aside and quickly came over as an accomplished, vivacious, talented and winning performer.
All her material is new to me but everything sounds good. You have to love someone who titles a song “Jesus Would’ve Let Me Pick The Restaurant”. The song lived up to expectations. I wasn’t taking notes, so can only remember the name of one other, the title track of her new (to the UK at least) album “Royal Blue” (very appropriate on the day that Dutch maestro Ronald Koeman is appointed manager of my football team Everton, who play in royal blue shirts – sorry about that non-sports fans).
She also talks of the trials and tribulations of life on the road. But it’s also clear that she and Hannah have become great friends (if they weren’t already) travelling around Europe together. For Lilly’s final number she gets Hannah up on stage and it’s clear they are having fun.
Haste ye back, Lilly. The British need to hear more from you.
And what of Hannah?
Firstly we’re surprised when she straps on a Fender Telecaster (though it was visible at the back of the stage).. It’s straight into “Lie Like You Love Me” followed by “You Ain’t Worth The Fight”. Both benefitting from the more muscular electric sound, Hannah knocks out strong versions of both. Then we get the first new song “Burning Down Birmingham”. It’s at the tougher, rockier end of Hannah’s style and sounds like one to look forward to hearing on record with a full band. The anecdote that preceded it may have put a couple of people off their food though.
Then it’s on with the acoustic guitar (she and Lilly are sharing a Gibson, which is a nice touch) and into “Black And White”. It’s a riveting performance and the first spine-tingling moment of the night.
The set continues with a mix of songs from “Razor Wire” and material from the forthcoming album, due to be recorded when Hannah gets back to the States. There was one about demonic possession. I think there was one called “Aftermath” and another called “Goldrush”. Whatever they were called they all sounded fine to me. I don’t think Hannah needs to worry about second album syndrome. I like that the songs are being road-tested. The recorded versions should be all the stronger for it.
Hannah brings Lilly up for a performance of Gillian Welch’s “Look At Miss Ohio”. Great version by two women who should be on the same exalted level as Gillian.
Bowing to crowd pressure Hannah finishes with “Parchman”. As splendid and as moving as the song is, it is not for me a show closer. I was thinking of calling for “Rails To Ride”, but couldn’t see it happening against the number of calls for Parchman. Nit picking on my part I suppose as Hannah closes with a great rendition.
And so the show closed. It so pleasing to be able to enjoy being in such proximity to performing artists, yet I have such mixed feelings about this. I want them to be playing bigger venues, because that is what their talents demand they should be playing. But it’s harder than ever to get your voice heard in days of mutltiple media outlets and no-one wanting to pay for someone else’s hard work and their living. I’m gratified that they are prepared to play for such small reward but I wish them every success and hope they one day reach the bigger venues.
When they do I’ll be there in row Z, recalling the time they were close enough to touch. And wondering where all the latecomers came from who have bagged the front row seats.
Until the next time, thank you both.