By Kat Collison
Photography by Robert Goode
Lissie is the kind of artist who does not struggle to engulf a stage. Her ‘thing’ is her use of soaring guitar solo ladled against a driving bass accompaniment. With the release of her new album My Wild West we see fewer of these virtuosic, fist-bumping solos. However, that is not to say she no longer resonates with her audience; many moments at the O2 Academy left an aftertaste just as emphatic.
Maurus’ choice of opener, “Hero”, is obviously deliberate. With her new album detailing her time spent in California, “Hero” reveals a lovelorn longing for her “forty acres in the sun” that will come with a return to the West. By juxtaposing her yearning for West America with songs from her latest album, and songs from her previous two albums: Back To Forever (2013) and Catching a Tiger (2010), Maurus manages to leave a fairly complete impression of how she has progressed both musically and emotionally. “Sleepwalking” is well received by the audience, with Maurus’ earthy vocals lulling us into that sort of eyes-closed-head-back on the spot shuffle. Like brushing your teeth or checking your emails, Maurus is well adjusted to ping ponging the audience between heart-wrenching, lighter-waving lament (“They All Want You”, “Stay”) and sassy, empowered pop rock (“Shameless” and the continually loved “When I’m Alone”).
One certainly cannot fault Lissie on her imperturbable ability to overcome technical difficulty. Her acoustic amp cable failing twice, she delivered one unplugged rendition of “Oh Mississippi” and one a cappella recitation of “Bully.” It is moments like these where the delicious yet fearsome virtuosic strength of her vocals become practically palpable. While a few intonation issues are naturally exposed with this sort of performance, Lissie’s rasping yet alimentary tone distracts the audience from this entirely.
The problem with Maurus, however, is the fricative battle ostensibly being fought between producing for record sales and her individuality as a singer/songwriter. Some of her finest moments throughout the night are achieved with the performance of her less conventional ‘poppy’ tracks that allow the full calibre of her musical prowess to be revealed. Though “Sun Keeps Risin’”, “Don’t You Give Up On Me” and “Further Away” are enjoyable, they rely heavily on studio arrangement, as is revealed when certain hallmarks of their individual identification (such as the bird sample in “Sun Keeps Risin’” or the level-adjusted, more prominent guitar solo in “Further Away”) are lost when performed live, leaving them a little two dimensional.
There’s something about Lissie, however. Her songs kick in a way that many singer-songwriters struggle to achieve. She is not folk-pop lost in the warbled, look-I’m-creating-percussion-by-hitting-my-guitar, sappy world of James Bay or Ed Sheeran. Her vocals are extraordinary, her demeanor is delightful, and as she leaves us with a defiant performance of “In Sleep” it is easy to understand the size of her audience.
My Wild West is available to download on iTunes now.