Words & Pictures: John W. King
Tonight Alison Moyet’s 22 date “Other” tour arrived in Liverpool at the Philharmonic.
Often due to the relatively close proximity of Liverpool and Manchester, touring acts skip Liverpool for the larger catchment area of Manchester, knowing that people will travel through, so it’s always nice to see an artist play both cities. Like Liverpool, Manchester is already sold out, but if you’ve got a ticket for Manchester, or indeed Bristol, Warwick, Nottingham, Aylesbury or Southampton, then on tonight’s evidence you are in for a real treat!
I first caught Hannah Peel at Threshold Festival earlier in the year. Her first two songs sounded great, but I got a text telling me I was needed at another stage, so I reluctantly had to leave, but made a mental note to be sure to catch her at the next possible opportunity. So, what fabulous luck that she was supporting the wonderful Alison Moyet tonight!
She said that after the Birmingham gig, someone tweeted about her “She has a great voice, but she’s a bit weird”. It reminded me of when I was at primary school (emphasis on Primary, I’m old, but not that old!) when Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights was in the charts, my teacher proclaimed that Kate Bush was “weird”. And I remember thinking that although she meant it in a derogatory way, for me that was the attraction – she wasn’t a run-off-the-mill singer doing catchy tunes, she was one-of-a-kind, unpredictable, with a compelling sense of mystery, and bags of talent.
Hannah is all these things, and Kate Bush is a good point of reference, but only in as much as she’s every bit as unique, talented, entertaining, experimental and enthralling, she’s not trying to be Kate Bush but she’s every bit as much a break-the-mould, one of a kind original.
And yes, quirky! For example…
Yes, thee Dennis Skinner, the “Beast of Bolsover” himself. It doesn’t get more random than that! (She later elabourated that he does a lot of work with dementia sufferers and work in care homes).
I did wonder before the event whether or not Alison’s audience would take to Hannah. Sometimes with established acts, older fans like the music they like and aren’t particularly interested in hearing anything new. Would they stay at the bar during her set, or worse sit and look at their watch, asking each other when the main act comes on, without giving her a chance?
I needn’t have worried! It was a seated gig and only about half a dozen seats were empty when she began her set. Beginning with a well chosen paired-down “music-box” cover of Blue Monday, that wouldn’t be out of place on a John Lewis advert (in a good way!) the collective goosebumps had the audience in the palm of her hand for the rest of her set.
I’ve seen Alison a couple of times at Glastonbury in the past few years, and she really impressed me on both occasions, but tonight was another level, the Philharmonic with it’s excellent acoustics, great sound and lighting engineers, and superb atmosphere could have been made for her.
The set began with spoken word, before the lights came on to dramatically reveal Alison and her band on stage.
Her voice was sounding as great as ever and tonight’s set was absolutely flawless. The biggest hits were spread throughout the set with perfect timing, and interspersed by newer material, a sublime mix of the old and the new.
I must admit I’ve not had a chance to listen to her current album “Other” yet, but it didn’t matter because they are great tracks that ooze class and can be fully enjoyed upon first listen.
There was even a creative electronic cover version of the Flying Pickets a Capella classic, “Only You” 🙂 (disclaimer: this being the internet, I’d best point out that I DO know it was the other way around!)
She spoke of how when she was young, she dreamed of buying a big house, and when she had her initial success she bought a country pile. But she got fed up with the lack of community. Once her kids left home she bought a terraced house in Brighton, where she can live a normal life, drawing much applause from the audience.
She also spoke of how the title of her album and tour “Other” comes from the fact that when she was young she felt that she didn’t really fit in anywhere, though desperately wanted to do so. But when she hit middle age, she learned to embrace being different and realised that the things she aspired to when she was younger, weren’t actually worth bothering about.
It’s genuinely great to hear this. There is so much pressure on artists in the music industry, when you think of the tragedy of people like Amy Winehouse who didn’t make it through to the other side, it’s wonderful to hear someone who has probably had her share of ups and downs, but now seems genuinely happy in her life. After all, she can wow audiences on a 22 date, largely sold out tour, yet in a laid-back place like Brighton, I’m sure she can take her grandkids to the swing park and do normal stuff (though it came as something of a shock that she has grandkids, she’s absolutely nothing like my granny who wore woolly shawls and knitted, bless her!)
My favourite Alison Moyet track is “Whispering your name” and when she hadn’t played it by the end of the set, I presumed she no longer plays it. No biggy, I’d had a great night regardless. However, when she came out for the encore, she said she was going to do a 90s number and an 80s one – woo hoo, guess which 90s one she played! It was the icing on the cake of a superb night.
She finished, appropriately enough with “Don’t Go”, and I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what the the audience were thinking!
Even though it’s a seated venue, everyone was up on their feet throughout the encore, and it was a fittingly joyous end to a special evening.
Her shows sell out quickly, but if you get the opportunity to see her, don’t think about it, just do it, I promise you won’t regret it!