October 12th | The Lanes
Photos: Lee Ramsey
In a week when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was giving all creative souls in the UK cause to doubt whether their gifts and chosen careers were ‘viable’, Nuala Honan took to the stage at The Lanes to give us all proof (if ever we needed it) that the ability to make live music is in fact enviable and invaluable.
Courtesy of the Corona-resistant forces of promoters Gravy Train, who are keeping the flag flying in the most viable way possible in conjunction with The Lanes, we were seated and distanced. The distanced aspect of shows, odd as it may feel, does at least enable you to look around and watch others enjoying the show. It also means that you can enjoy the show, safe from having a clumsy, inebriated numpty gyrating in front of you and spending the gig trying to dance your toenails off. As Honan sings on the excellent ‘Slow Down’, “It’s not the same,” but as much as hugs may be off the agenda at the moment, embracing shows like this one feels like much-needed connection.
What was most evident in Nuala Honan’s performance was just how liberating playing felt. Releasing her album, Doubt & Reckoning during lockdown gave her plenty to play and no-one three-dimensional to play it to. Monday night was Honan unlocked. To see her shred during the crescendo of ‘Head Undone’ or hammering the big staccato chords on ‘This City’, left us in no shred of doubt about how much of her potent creative juices she had saved up for this evening. Take that, Sunak…
‘Keep It To Yourself’ is an anthem to critics and was one of the set’s high points. “I wrote this song at a time in my life when people said they didn’t like my music. My response to them – go fuck yourself.” The advice in the song title itself could well be offered sagely to one or two oblivious and verbose elements of the audience. A curious quirk of sitting an audience around tables seems to be that it ramps up people’s desire to shout at each other over the music. Considering the power and crisp sound of The Lanes’ PA system, a few Bristol inhabitants certainly do have superhuman lungs and vocal chords.
Before ‘Day To Day’, Honan talked about how, “No-one tells you how hard compassion is. It takes a lot of vulnerability.” The new sound explored by Honan has just the right blend of raw emotion and bristling energy. You can see why BBC6 Music picked Doubt & Reckoning as an album of the day. ‘Wolves’ was moody and contemplative. ‘Two Hands’ (not on the album, but also splendid) was dedicated to her partner. It felt like an Anna Calvi moment, with a hypnotic drum bed and swirling guitars. Alanis Morissette’s ‘You Oughta Know’ similarly emptied a sackful of turmoil into the middle of the set.
To finish, the motorik ‘Part of Something’ played us out in an inspiring flurry and frenzy. Hair, hands and drumsticks flailed in the finest possible way. We were part of something and that something represented an important part of us. Let’s hope we can all experience more shows in 2020 and let’s hope those shows are as joyous as watching Nuala Honan.
See the video for ‘Slow Down’ here: