Monday, 28 October 2013

Joe Henry and Lisa Hannigan - Highline Ballroom, NYC, 15 June 2012

In New Amsterdam or Old Amsterdam you couldn’t be disappointed with Joe Henry and Lisa Hannigan.

Joe Henry; now that is a performer who I feel I could never do justice with an attempt to describe him.

And it’s not because I am not articulate enough, but rather he comes across as a rather complex and theatrical person, maybe a deep thinker, maybe, just maybe a creative genius. I don’t follow too many people on twitter, however Joe Henry is one, and I want to say that nearly all, if not all of his posts are quotes of inspiration and deep thought. This for mine always leads to intrigue, and add that with phenomenal musical writing and producing and you have one interesting Cat.

The first time I had the luck to catch Joe was at Paradiso and it was one of those fantastic evenings where I had gone on a whim to see a show with next to no knowledge of the evenings performer other than a friend had told me to come along. And on that particular night before the band took the main stage it had very little more on it than just a piano, a couple of other instruments and a few candles slowly burning down. The mood was set well before the band had even taken the stage. Over the course of that evening I had my breath taken away more than once and Joes beautiful songs would leave a lasting impact on me for the years to come and even watch the youtube videos of that night give me a very special feeling. (check out video for Time is a Lion if you want the Paradiso experience)

Therefore when I found myself in New York and saw that Joe would be playing the Highline Ballroom I started to hatch my plan to catch his live performance once more. To my joy the evenings billing was an evening with Joe Henry and Lisa Hannigan. Now whilst I knew a little about Joe, I knew very little about Lisa, other than she had recently released an album that had received pretty good reviews and some very positive publicity. Also I had heard that she had previously played with Damien Rice, not a particular performer that I have warmed to yet but that day could come.

So having ditched some of my closest friends, I headed to the Highline Ballroom on my “Pat Malone” to see a show in NYC. The venue was interesting and I instantly wished I had booked a table or booth and had some food and somewhere to sit over the course of the evening. However I found myself in a moderately familiar place holding up the bar, icy cold beer in hand and striking up a conversation with a 50 something Neeeew Yorrrrrker.

What did disappointed me the most talking to this guy was that he continually talked about how hot Lisa was and nothing at all to do with the fact she was putting on an amazing show and that she might have a fantastic voice. On top of that he started to heckle the fact that Joe Henry was even there (although the ticket was clearly billed as an evening with Joe Henry and Lisa Hannigan). So mid song I tried to school him in a few more musically interesting point about the two ridiculously talented people on stage I found myself nearly wanting to punch this guy in the head and scream “do you understand what a F#CKING Grammy award is?” but I think that was probably a complete lost cause and furthermore I did stop short of mentioning that Joe may or may not be married to Madonna’s sister and I am sure that reference to potential musical interest or ability would be completely lost.

So other than the distraction of an “interesting character” at the bar the evening’s performance played out pretty much as I had expected. Both sang songs individually impeccably well and several duets were sung together but most important for me was that everything “of note” from both their repertoires were covered. And whilst up until now I did not feel the same amazement about this show (well not quite and it wasn’t done yet) that I had in Amsterdam, this had still been an exceptional show. 

And so as the evening closed out both Lisa and Joe were joined on stage by all of the band member’s to perform a rendition of “The Bands” “The Weight” in Memory of Levon Helms recent passing. And that was the moment that grabbed me right at the last gasp - just one last emotional performance to leave you thinking about it in the following days. That was exactly what I was looking for in this show, it had been taken to a new level.

So the night ended up being a perfect concert going evening and one that I am sure I would be able to replicate more often living in New York…….not that I don’t give it a go in Old Amsterdam……


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