Los Angeles concert crowds are known for being often times impolite and rude. It makes it that much harder for a singer-songwriter who plays quieter tunes to do what they set out to. Yet for three straight hours (minus a brief set break), Lisa Hannigan and Heather Woods Broderick managed to keep the Teragram Ballroom crowd in downtown Los Angeles in quiet awe.
Opening the show was Heather Woods Broderick. You may be familiar with her from her time as a keyboardist and backup vocalist for the powerfully heartbreaking Sharon Van Etten. That’s where I first found out about her, and it led me to check out her 2015 album Glider when it came out. It was one of the year’s better records that you may have missed. The cover features her grandmother, and Broderick was happy to share with the crowd that she was there in the crowd for this special show. If I had to make a comparison, Broderick’s music reminds me a bit of Joshua Radin’s.
Broderick was unassuming as she took the stage, allowing her strong and potent vocals to do all the talking for her. She also flashed brilliant guitar skills, laying down some solid finger-picking rhythms behind her voice. You don’t often see an opening act quiet a crowd but from the opening note of her first song “Up in the Pine,” she was able to do just that. She also juggled multiple instruments — from playing guitar to keyboards to hitting a drum to jumping behind a piano — many times two or more of these in the same song. After closing with the title track “Glider,” her set left you wanting more of Heather Woods Broderick, which we were lucky enough to get as a backing member of Lisa Hannigan’s band a half hour later.
I hadn’t seen Lisa Hannigan since 2011. One of the few good things I remember about an ex-girlfriend was her winning tickets for us to see her in San Francisco, and I’d been longing to see her again ever since. Hannigan hardly tours in America, but thankfully she came to L.A. in support of her third solo record At Swim. She couldn’t have chosen a more perfect venue, the Teragram’s acoustics are top-notch and a perfect fit for her.
Hannigan took the stage with her band in a beautiful dress, looking as though she hasn’t aged a day since I saw her almost six years ago. She would play all 11 songs from her latest record, kicking the show off with “Ora,” which immediately showcased the wide range of Hannigan’s voice. “I’m going home/I’m going home/Won’t you come with me?/Won’t you come with me?” Hannigan sings in the lone chorus, as Broderick brought some depth to the song, playing her guitar with a bow.
Hannigan went back to her memorable first record Sea Stew for her second song of the night, “Pistachio.” The piano-driven tune saw Hannigan smash a maraca against her side for the rhythm. Hannigan has one of those voices where her accent (a heavy Irish one) brings an added touch to her voice. “Sit down and smoke away/I wouldn’t knock it ’til you’re in them shoes,” she sang, giving me a bit of goosebumps.
The stronger songs from her latest record came across equally strong in the live setting. “Prayer for the Dying,” “Undertow,” and “Snow” were probably my three favorites of the evening. Hannigan shared after “Undertow” that for the video, she had to learn how to sing the song backwards. A crowdmember shouted “Do it!” and Hannigan said “Oh, but I will.” Lisa Hannigan proved she can sing backwards more beautifully than 99 percent of the population can sing normally.
“Snow” was pre-empted by a hilarious story. Hannigan said she had worn a strapless bra and thought it would be okay for what she was going to wear for the show, discovering at the last minute that it was a little too revealing. With Broderick on stage playing her set, she had no choice but to hail an Uber herself to her hotel.
A car slowed and she asked “Are you my Uber?” The guy said, “No, but are you Lisa Hannigan?” The guy — revealed to be named Jonah — then gave Hannigan a ride to her hotel, waited for her as she changed, getting her back to the Teragram just in time. That earned him a song dedication and a great story he’ll get to share forever.
The next song came from Hannigan’s second record Passenger. “Little Bird” may be my favorite Lisa Hannigan song of them all, and it seemed to be a favorite of the crowd. It’s one of the most heartbreaking songs in her repertoire, undoubtedly reminding everyone in the crowd of a past relationship that went askew. It was also during this song that Hannigan’s face seemed to express the most emotion.
Of the latter part of her set, “We, The Drowned” left the most lasting impression of the songs from At Swim. I couldnt help but give a look to my friend as the vocals of Hannigan and Broderick built beautifully to the song’s breakdown. She would conclude her set with another song from her second record, “Knots.” It is one of the more upbeat, rhythmic songs from her back catalog. The way the song crescendos and then stops before Hannigan delivers the final chorus is as good of a place to stop a show as any.
Lisa Hannigan would return to the stage for the encore flanked by Heather Woods Broderick and one of the male members of her band for an acapella version of “Anahorish.” Two songs later, she would close the show with “A Sail” from her second record, the crowd erupting in hollering and applause to the wide smiles of Hannigan, who seemed to really appreciate the support she got on the night.
It’s still early in 2017, but this is definitely on the board as being one of the best shows I’ve seen so far this year. It started off on a high note and there was never a lull. Both Lisa Hannigan and Heather Woods Broderick made everyone at the Teragram Ballroom feel all of the feels.
Photos courtesy of Tim Aarons