Lindi Ortega – The Wardrobe, Leeds, 29th January 2014
With her rich cherry lips, the red roses embroidered onto the shoulders of her top and those fabulous matching cowgirl boots it comes as no surprise when Lindi Ortega reveals the true identity of her favourite colour. The brilliance of their hue contrasts vividly with the solemnity of her other attire. Black shirt, black skirt, black veil; she wears a Gothic widow’s weeds as if to transmit the darkness that runs through her music.
Lindi Ortega’s career is an exercise in dogged persistence. At 33 years of age and buoyed by the success of last year’s Tin Star album, she has finally been received as one country music’s emerging stars. Yet for all of this recent acceptance and acclaim, Ortega is also someone to whom happiness does not come easily. And she uses her own experiences of sadness and alienation to wring what is clearly genuine feeling out of those traditional country themes of heartache and loss.
Hank Williams’ ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’,rearing its disconsolate head early on in tonight’s set, is a most perfect fit for her tiny frame as she immerses herself fully in the song’s abject isolation. Tin Star’s title track is a deeply moving reflection of the hard road that she has travelled and the vaguely macabre ‘Lived and Died Alone’ – a poignant paean to all emotionally lost souls – is, at her own admission, a song that may ultimately see her cast as someone who is very weird indeed.
But for all of her idiosyncrasies, desire for anonymity and apparent lack of self-belief, Lindi Ortega also has sassy charm, charisma and a voice bigger and more wide-open than the prairies of her Canadian homeland on her side and when all of these elements are in balance – as they are for huge swathes of this evening’s dynamic performance, be it on rockabilly, blues, the most tender of ballads (first encore ‘Cigarettes and Truckstops’ is really quite breathtaking) or classic country (second encore, her reworking of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring Of Fire’ with some exquisite surf guitar from “Champagne” James Robertson is a quiet revelation) – she is the most genuine and powerful of forces to be reckoned with.
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