11th October | St George’s
Lissie is taking a second to wind down. God knows she needs it. While her first album was a breath of fresh air, tuning into the 1970s Fleetwood Mac style, Back to Forever was bigger in every way. Bigger in attitude, choruses and production, she evolved from a singer-songwriter armed with a guitar to a shameless pop star with something to say.
St George’s Hall is a majestic venue that is big enough to let Lissie stretch her vocal chords, but small enough to keep things intimate. Underneath a scarlet-lit shrine depicting a golden Jesus and his disciples is the grand piano that the whole show hangs on. But of course, it was the woman behind the keys that we were interested in.
Backed by her pianist, Leighton Youth, she strolled onstage faced with just her microphone and a generous two bottles of wine. With everything she needed to get going, she began by breaking down ‘Don’t You Give Up On Me’ which stripped off the polish it wore on Castles and shone in its own right. The stage could barely contain her as she shook off her cerulean shawl mid-song.
If you thought any moments would be lacking without the inevitable bombast of her backing band, you’d be sorely mistaken. She commanded absolute attention with her voice, and relished reliving the memories every time she sang. Hence it’s no surprise she didn’t shy away from talking about why the music is important to her. “This is an opportunity for me to tell you about my songs and where they came from,” she proclaimed after apologising for talking too much.
Yet the numerous pauses felt relevant and deeply personal. At one point she talked about growing up on a farm in north-eastern Iowa in Rock Island and her many crossings of the Mississippi River. “I didn’t appreciate it like I do now” she confessed. “I grew up on this river associated with tall tales and legends,” she carried on wistfully, leading into ‘Oh Mississippi’. It was a heartfelt ode to her past to and to a geographical landmark that has inspired great awe, upon leaving it behind.
This tour is clearly no self indulgent re-tread, more of a bold recollection. The Piano Retrospective is her blank canvas that she has painted with her favourite songs over the years, creating a rich tapestry of vibrant colour and mixed emotions. What could easily be an excuse to play her greatest hits instead showed the Iowa singer reflecting on her roaring 20s. Her discography is peppered with major highs and melancholic lows, but grounded by one consistent factor.
The stark realisation came after her cover of Dixie Chicks’ ‘Cowboy Take Me Away,’ where she ruminated on the meaning of it. “I think it’s about trying to build a life that feels authentic and real” she said. Then you figure out her quote summarised her perfectly, whether it be her sense of feeling lost in ‘Everywhere I Go’, the heartbreak in ‘When I’m Alone’ or a bittersweet retelling of the girl who stole her man in ‘They All Want You’.
However corny it sounds, the various stories of these songs tell tales of a girl trying to find her way through her young years while staying true to herself. Alas, it’s not just her unhinged vocal that hooks you in, Lissie’s authenticity is her greatest weapon.
See the video for ‘Best Days’ here: