When you’re raised in a place named Rock Island, your future career is pretty clear. American singer songwriter Lissie stands on the Institute stage looking like she was always destined to play her no-nonsense, folk-tinged rock music. There are no fancy stage sets, little-to-no make-up, just Lissie and a band of talented musicians and some truly great songs.
Before all that though we’re treated to a brilliant set from UK-based New Yorker, Norma Jean Martine. Mixing gritty, soulful, bluesy vocals with pop hooks and some feisty keyboard skills, she holds the audience’s attention throughout and it’s clear a good percentage of the room will be Googling her name when they get home. Stand-out tracks include a heartfelt Still In Love With You which really shows off Martine’s impressive vocals. Definitely a name to keep an eye on.
Lissie obviously has a varied musical background and brings elements from all directions into her songs. Blues, soul, pop, country, 70s rock and even heavy metal influences meld together to form something quite unique in the current music scene. And then there’s that voice. Soulful, soaring and powerful, yet with just enough imperfection to make you believe every word she sings.
The setlist tonight spans her entire catalogue, with crowd favourites When I’m Alone and Sleepwalking getting the biggest reactions but a rare outing of Back To Forever and old song, Shroud, which she’s “fallen back in love with” are equally impressive. Taken from the new covers EP, Lissie’s version of Danzig classic Mother proves yet again that she can put her own spin on the most unexpected of songs and do it with style.
During the encore she invites one fan, Jamie Harrison, up onstage to share a shot of her own branded tequila (not yet available in the UK unfortunately) before bowing out with a blistering In Sleep.
Tonight’s gig was originally booked into a smaller room so it’s great to see that Lissie’s name may finally be breaking into the mainstream. With her talent, it’s where she belongs.
Review & photos – Steve Gerrard