Live Review – Hannah Brown @ Hare & Hounds
Hare & Hounds
Review by Ian Paget
Usually operating solo, Midlands singer-songwriter Hannah Brown states that it’s a “dream come true” to be able to introduce her brand new backing band to fully realise the songs she’s amassed over the past few years. To illustrate the change in dynamic, Hannah opens with an old song, ‘Empty’, transformed into a soaring indie-pop anthem which adds to her confident vocals and powerful playing style. ‘I Don’t Want To Be You’ follows with an atmospheric style reminiscent of Bryde, with poppy hooks accentuated by Hannah’s smooth delivery, and the band do a great job of adding layers to the songs, especially on ‘Better For This’, originally designed “with a bigger sound in mind”.
Experience as a solo artist seems to have made it easier to communicate with the audience, and Hannah’s quite happy to talk between songs, telling stories of how she was once confused online for an Alabama beauty contest winner with the same name and explaining the lyrics on the reflective ‘Stay’ as about battling insecurities and being honest. It’s that honesty and vulnerability that often shines through in much of the set, often taking a more folky songwriting approach and giving it a poppier spin. Towards the end of the set there’s even glimpses of a more alternative rock sound on the brand new ‘Hate Myself’, described as an exercise in “making a sad song sound happy”, and upbeat current single ‘Further Away’. With such a confident and accomplished showing tonight, expect to hear a lot more from Hannah Brown in the near future.
I’ve seen support act Savage Sellout a few times before as an indie-rock 4-piece as they hail from Burton-on-Trent, not far from my own neck of the woods. Tonight they’re down to a duo of singer Ben and drummer Ella for a reinforced acoustic set full of energy and endeavour. Tracks like opener ‘Crackdown’ suggest a punk-inspired style and are delivered with an infectious enthusiasm that grabs the attention, whilst ‘Dice Roll’ and ‘Charlie’ benefit from Ben’s powerful vocals in particular, even if the latter track almost breaks down without their bandmates to contribute. Sometimes it becomes obvious there’s a missing ingredient or two, but there’s enough of a fun factor to keep things enjoyable and a quick cover of ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ as made famous by Toploader has the eager crowd smiling and dancing.
Ryan McMey might be new on the scene as a solo artist, but he’s clearly put a lot of time into crafting his songs and explains that he usually performs as part of an unnamed duo. For the first few songs of his set tonight he’s playing along to backing tracks on a tablet which helps him to concentrate on his vocals, which have a bright airy quality not unlike Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie and give songs such as ‘Cross Your Mind’ something interesting to hook the audience in. Without the backing track, Ryan’s guitar playing comes to prominence on tracks like ‘With Me’ and ‘Next To You’ (one of a few tracks written for Tamworth musician Nath Brooks) before the set comes to an end with the catchy “almost rock” song ‘Politics And Cocaine’. It sounds like Ryan has plenty of different strings to his bow as a singer-songwriter and he does a fine job of warming up the crowd this evening.