Lisa Hannigan can sing her tunes backwards and forwards— a skill she honed in order to make the music video for her latest single ‘Undertow.’ She demonstrated her talent for such tongue twisters Wednesday night at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles, reversing pre-chorus lyrics “I want to float / In between everyone” into unintelligible, but pretty, gibberish.
Hannigan opened her headlining set at the downtown venue with ‘Ora’ a light sighing tune from her latest release At Swim. The Irish singer got her start in Damien Rice’s band, with her signature voice featured on his debut album O.
Hannigan is known for her emotional and versatile voice; she can lean into a lilting affection, push into a soaring high note and whisper a breathless trill. In the past decade, Hannigan has stepped out on her own, releasing three albums.
Most of the set was devoted to tunes from At Swim, many of which are dreary, to say the least. Despite the melancholic content of ‘Prayer for the Dying,’ it appeared to be a crowd favorite with extra cheers as a simple piano melody played out the song’s end. Singer Heather Woods Broderick (also Hannigan’s opener) joined Hannigan for ‘We, The Drowned.’ The song gained power as the pair’s voices joined together and literally gave me (and my concert buddy) goose bumps.
But some Hannigan’s most powerful moments were when she took the stage alone, performing songs from her 2011 LP, The Passenger. The opening melody of ‘Little Bird’ was met with quick applause, that immediately hushed to hear Hannigan’s precise finger-picking and haunting lyrics.
As lovely as Hannigan’s vocals are, the show was made most enjoyable due to a highly respectful audience. From the start of her set until it’s end, the L.A. crowd was nearly silent—seemingly rapt under the spell of her performance.
Hannigan ended the evening with ‘A Sail,’ a mid-tempo number from The Passenger. This upbeat tune felt like a thank you to a well-behaved audience with lyrics “I was the loudest/ While you stayed quiet / We were surrounded / I will roll my heart up.” Thanks for keeping it quiet, L.A.