The Cuban Embassy
Review by Mark Wakeman
With the ongoing lack of support for local gigs being one of my major gripes it was lovely to see a packed and sold out Cuban Embassy for this gig. Hattie Briggs despite only being in her mid 20’s has been around for a few years and built up a steady following, having seen her perform a couple of times at the Kitchen Garden Cafe, I was delighted to get the chance to review her live show again.
Opening act was Birmingham based singer-songwriter Silas Burke. I’d had the pleasure to review his new single ‘Tail Lights’ last week so was interested to see him play live. Silas was a highly accomplished singer and keyboard player who made the full use of his 30 minute slot to deliver a very competent set of original songs plus a very cleverly reworked cover of Jon Bellion’s ‘All Time Low’.
The fact that this was a standing gig and Silas was seated at his keyboard was possibly a negative point as the Cuban Embassy has a notoriously low stage and those further back may have only been able to see the top of Silas’ head. But the quality of his musicianship would have made up for what they might not have been visually able to see.
Of his original material standouts were ‘Days of Unity’, written about the 2015 Paris Bombings and ‘Summer Breeze’ which he said had been inspired by the OC TV Series. Despite being Birmingham based Silas is originally from Sheffield and spent time in Canada growing up. ‘Mountains in the City’ was his tribute to Vancouver from this period.
Set closer was the excellent ‘Tail Lights’ the lead single from his next EP which is due to be released in early 2020. Silas is clearly a top level songwriter and musician and whilst his performance didn’t grab everyone’s attention, it was well received by the knowledgeable crowd. In a different setting and with a full band, I think his performance would be at the same level as his creative talent. If he does an EP launch gig then it will certainly be worth checking out.
Danielle Cawdell whose day job is as a Language and Speech Therapist is a local Birmingham singer-songwriter who I’ve seen live a couple of times. She was playing with a full band including her girlfriend on lead guitar and a work colleague Kirsty on backing vocals and harmonies. I’d not seen her with a full band before so this was a nice treat.
Again the lowness of the stage with Danielle seated at her keyboard’s was an issue especially as she has a fairly shy on stage persona. But Danielle has an exceptional voice and her shyness in introducing the songs transforms into a confident and animated performer when singing.
Danielle gave a lot of new material an airing which included ‘Only You’, ‘How’ and ‘The Beginning’, before playing the title track of her debut album ‘Silence Set Me Free’. The fact that she was playing so much new material may have been a slight factor in her performance as her confidence seemed to clearly grow as she introduced each new song and they were well appreciated.
‘Swimming Pool’ about a person’s first sexual encounter and another new song ‘Only Amaze’ closed her set. This was clearly a testing the water gig of mainly new material for Danielle but the new songs are highly promising and for someone who doesn’t gig around that much possibly due to her day job, it is always nice to see her play live.
The headliner Hattie Briggs is a talented and beautiful young lady from Stroud in Gloucestershire. This is only the third time that she has played Birmingham as a headliner since 2016 but she did support Alfie Boe on his recent UK tour where she had the chance to share her music with tens of thousands of fans. Clearly this had helped the concert to sell out. Perhaps mindful of the low stage and the issue of being seated at a keyboard Hattie performed much more on guitar than I had seen her previously and switched effortlessly between that and keys. Her voice sounded better than ever on the Joni Mitchell like opener ‘Never Been In Love Before’ and by the second song ‘Old Eyes’ there was a full crowd sing-a-long going on.
Traveling song ‘Lift Me Up’ and one of her many self confessed sad songs ‘Say Goodbye’ were confidently performed. Hattie certainly seems a much more self assured artist than when I first saw her live, possibly realizing that she is as good as everyone said she was.
New single ‘Come Over’ which she described as a rare happy song was another of the set high spots. Hattie is clearly very close to her mum who was proudly watching her perform and dedicated ‘Just Breathe’, a song written about her to her. Hattie’s mum has been a driving force behind her career and accompanies her to most of her gigs and whilst their personalities may be different, they are clearly a perfect foil for each other and have a lovely close relationship.
Hattie had recently done a Radio Two session and had been asked to do a cover on it and chose ‘Leave a Light On’ by Tom Walker, this showcased her voice and was a well thought out choice of song. A very enjoyable new song ‘World On Wheels’ and a song she had adapted from a poem called ‘Time’ bought an excellent hour of music from a talented young artist at the top of her game to an end. But there was no way the crowd was going to let it end there and Hattie returned for an encore of 2018 summer single ‘Up To You’, perhaps her most accessible crossover pop song to date before ending with her traditional spine tingling version of the Leonard Cohen classic ‘Hallelujah’.