As we enter the Limelight 2 on this first December night its to a packed house all here to see in inimitable Elisabeth ‘Lissie‘ Marius play her first Belfast gig in 5 years since she last played at the Open House Festival and picked up a legion of followers.
Opening up the show first is Ryan O’Reilly, a London based acoustic troubadour. He wins the crowd over with songs like ‘The One‘, ‘Sometimes Things Just Happen’ and ‘Northern Lights‘. His confessional style is reminiscent of early Ryan Adams and proves a hit with the crowd and is a perfect opener for the main event.
Lissie comes on-stage amid whoops and cheers from the audience who are a mix of both young and old such is her appeal. Dressed simply in jeans and a shirt, long blonde hair flowing freely and armed with an acoustic guitar she recounts that this tour is a throwback to how she started, as an acoustic artist and launches into ‘Catching A Tiger‘, the title track from her 2010 album. Its met with rapturous applause and is followed up by ‘Further Away(Romance Police)‘ from her 2013 album ‘Back to Forever‘.
With her powerful voice echoing around the Limelight it gives the song new dimension and when its finished she toasts us with a glass of red wine. Next up is ‘Sleepwalking‘ from the same album, which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Stevie Nicks album as its a perfectly crafted pop song and when the bass interval kicks in Lissie just improvises by making the bass sound singing’ bom bom bom’ which is quite funny and endearing so we all join in.
Lissie speaks about how she was beginning to get bored of the music business as there is in her words ‘so much other shit‘ that an artist has to do besides just playing and recording music and that’s why she wrote the next song she plays, ‘Shameless‘ which she calls her ‘sassy song‘. It is indeed full of attitude and somewhat a rebellion against the music industry and their attitude to female singers and the sexism in the industry where a woman’s looks are focused on rather than her talent and judging by the women in the crowd all joining in it resonates with daily life too.
When introducing us to her next new song Lissie speaks about the death of her aunt Laura from ALS and how tough it was and so she channeled her emotions into this new track ‘Sun Keeps Rising‘ and while she’s singing it is clear to see the wound is still raw and she is visibly emotional. It is a song that is sure to strike a chord with anyone who has experienced loss in their life and it is a powerful and poignant moment.
She kicks the mood back up a notch by launching into ‘When I’m Alone‘ and then ‘Record Collector’ which develop into sing-along affairs with clamping and stomping along to the beat. Tonight Lissie is full of candid stories as the setting is so intimate and cosy and proceeds to divulge how she was dropped by her record label after the second album and ready for a change she had decided she was going to buy a farm in Iowa and move there and sing when she felt like it instead of feeling stressed by something that she loved to do. Life however had different plans as she has just recorded her third album ‘My Wild West‘ and has done so independent of a record label, though she confesses that when she comes off tour she’s going to be a beekeeper which is ‘pretty cool‘.
She plays ‘Hero‘ next which is the first song from the forthcoming album which seems to have a more stripped down country feel in comparison with her last record and is going back to her roots in Americana. Keeping it country ‘Oh Mississippi‘ gets an airing next and is more haunting played live and acoustic in a tiny venue once it gets going ( there’s a slight hiccup at the start when Lissie starts to cough and explains to the knowing crowd that she had been in Maddens bar the night before). Her next song is a new never played before song and she explains her inspiration for it is from the documentary ‘Pray the Devil Back to Hell’ about the struggle of Liberian woman to end the bloody civil war in their country through peaceful protest.
The song ‘Daughters‘ is a rousing call to women reminding us of our place in the world and is received well by the crowd. Lissie compliments the crowd saying that she loves it here and that ‘Belfast people always keep it real’ and with that launches into the beautiful ‘Everywhere I Go‘ which is leaves the room awestruck such is her vocal prowess.
Thanking her support Ryan O’Reilly and the crowd Lissie says she has one last song and isn’t going to do the pretend leaving and then coming back onstage thing and as she is about to play, a chant erupts from the crowd of ‘We love you Lissie we do‘ and it is championed by 4 or 5 men in their 40s. Everyone joins in and she tells us we have made her year. With a final rendition of ‘In Sleep‘ the gig is finished and the intimate atmosphere gone as quick as it was created. It seems that Lissie has grown both as a songwriter and a person in the five years since she last played here, from signed artist to independent songstress- I look forward to seeing what the next five years bring.