This evening’s entertainment in a heaving Academy is an absolute joy from start to finish, and an eclectic line-up ensures there really is something for everyone. First up is Manchester-based Hannah Ashcroft. Quietly spoken, her music mirrors this disposition and it takes a song or two for the crowd to pay attention. As the set progresses there emerges something spikier, something akin to the forthright nature of Courtney Barnett, particularly when she sings lead track ‘Amoeba’ from her 2022 EP Husk.
The splendid Cat Clyde follows. Her third album Down Rounder was released just a few days ago and there is a burgeoning confidence about the young Canadian that thrills the crowd. Seemingly able to turn on a dime, her wonderful set traverses a range of emotions. ‘So Heavy’ is a bluesy number, full of smoky tones which are later shattered by Clyde’s remarkable vocals that slice effortlessly through the smouldering veneer. Tracks like ‘The River’ are much more tender acoustic affairs but there is such emotion in the vocals that the crowd remains transfixed. Tracks like ‘Papa Took My Totems’ are a joy. There is a more breezy cadence to the new material. There’s something more jaunty, kinetic and unpredictable in these moments as a raft of genres appear to coalesce amidst serious themes including post-colonialism and patriarchy. Why am I only hearing about the magnificent Cat Clyde now?!?
Manchester appears to be Lissie’s second home, albeit a very different one to her midwest farm. It allows her to bring together her very tight band to perform songs from new album Carving Canyons, as well as focus on the tracks that established her status with her UK fans over a decade ago. After ‘Unravel’ opens the show the spirited ‘Sleepwalking’ from 2013 album Back to Forever is a great example of this, perfectly capturing the pleasures this American artist offers; mighty singalong choruses reside amidst driving rhythms but when ‘Flowers’ follows we get to appreciate how Lissie’s songwriting has matured over the last decade. Listen carefully and ‘Best Days’ provides some personal insight into the California years. This is followed by the immaculate ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’. Lissie certainly knows how to pen a killer chorus and this one prompts the crowd to join in joyfully. The song manages to effortlessly morph into Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ for a few exhilarating seconds, perhaps revealing one of the many inspirations that Lissie traverses during the evening. The song is also a first proper introduction to her special guitarist Sam Quinn, who thrills throughout the evening with some extended solos that delight with their tone and gracefulness.
There’s always been something epic about Lissie. Her vocals are booming tonight and ‘Sad’ allows the earnest themes to floor those at the front of this cramped venue. It may not be reinventing the wheel, but it’s incredibly effective stuff and ‘Hero’ ramps up this charged atmosphere. ‘Further Away’ caps off this period of the evening in electric fashion. The Fleetwood Mac comparisons are probably fair during these moments, but who cares when the execution is so thrilling and once again, Sam Quinn provides a fervid, muscular denouement to proceedings.
Although the focus is on the new record, and we get slick renditions of the crepuscular ‘Night Moves’ and the confessional ‘Lonesome Wine’ as well as the imposing title track, Lissie still acknowledges the significance of 2010’s Catching a Tiger and ‘When I’m Alone’ and ‘In Sleep’ are gratefully received, the former eliciting whoops of delight, but it’s final track ‘Little Lovin’, from the same record that thrills the most and prompts Lissie to traverse the front rail to the audience’s delight as the song concludes in exhilarating fashion.
Words & Images by Iain Fox