LIVE: Lisa O’Neill – Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, 16/03/2023

LIVE: Lisa O’Neill – Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, 16/03/2023

It is the opening night of the tour. Ten further dates in this country will follow before the tour crosses the Atlantic Ocean next month for a dozen shows in the United States. Before closing this absolutely spellbinding performance with ‘Goodnight World’ and wishing us all “a happy Spring” – she is ever so polite is this musician and songwriter from Cavan in Ireland – Lisa O’Neill confides just how scary it is to come across the water with a new album. After a slight pause, she then adds, almost apologetically, “it’s a bit of a mad album, too.” She hopes that we had liked it, though.

By that time Lisa O’Neill had played all of the other seven songs from the new record, All Of This Is Chance, and the unequivocal response to her question was that we had all loved it. Very much so. Released last month, some five years after its predecessor, Heard A Long Gone Song, the new album, even this early on in the year, will most certainly be vying for the top spot on those Best of 2023 lists.  All Of This Is Chance also confirms Lisa O’Neill’s position as one of the great songwriters of the modern age. 

Flanked by Brian Leach and Joseph Doyle“on friendship” as she so quaintly puts it, Lisa O’Neill opens her set with the evocative title track from the new album. And right from the very outset, it is clear that nature in general, and birds in particular, will feature extensively in her words and music. Here there are crows. Then there is a blackbird on the song of the same name and as was featured in the British period crime drama television series, Peaky Blinders. A feathered friend appears in ‘Old Note’ – surely the most outstanding track on an album full of outstanding tracks – and ‘Birdy From Another Realm’ requires no avian introduction. Even when speaking about the genesis of an older song, ‘Rock The Machine’, Lisa O’Neill feels that the central character wishes that a cormorant or heron on the Liffey, the beautiful river that flows through Dublin, would come and take his troubles away. 

Lisa O’Neill believes modern life is moving too fast, far outstripping the pace set by nature and you feel that the birds in her songs are somehow barometers of these shifting sands. It becomes a lesson in life to spend 90 minutes in her musical company. Here you can just move at the speed she sets – one which enables you to take proper heed of the natural world before we pass it by. 

These songs forge a connection with the land and our inner being as Lisa O’Neill, accompanied by Brian Leach’s beautifully understated, yet hugely atmospheric hammered dulcimer and anchored by the melodic fluidity of Joseph Doyle’s upright bass transports the audience to another musical world that simply transcends tradition.

 After this evenly weighted, nigh-on-perfect performance it doesn’t somehow seem right to request, nay demand another song, but Lisa O’Neill is more than happy to oblige. The returning trio are joined by Seamus Fogarty who earlier had fulfilled his support act commitments with the most considerable of aplomb. He picks up a banjo and adds further character to a compelling cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘All The Tired Horses’, bringing with it a close to a magical evening.

A Please Please You and Brudenell Presents promotion.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.