Lindi Ortega brough a touch of class to Liverpool, Getintothis’ Nick Hodge found himself in awe to an artist who could traverse both time and style.
“She’s the dark yin to Dolly Parton’s yang” says our friend, after the opening song of Lindi Ortega’s set, at which point we mentally throw away our notepad and all critical delusions of grandeur. She’s nailed it in eight words.
Of course this is only the opening song, but we spend the remainder of the set listening to her powerful, plaintive warbling, thinking, “y’know, she is a dark Dolly….”. Or maybe a female Johnny (Jenny?) Cash.
She certainly dresses the part, black hat and veil, a grieving widow from some as-yet-unmade Zorro flick, but promising to inspire some dancing in the crowd.
Right before launching into a sequence of serious, and seriously downbeat, numbers. Lindi does country the way it’s meant to be – sincere, brutally honest, emotionally vulnerable, and follows pleasingly-familiar lyrical tropes – lonesome-ness, bad luck, the struggling musician.
Lindi Ortega at Leaf Tea Shop, Liverpool
She plays it all heroically straight, no winking or mugging, and she’s picked her band well, with a guitarist who appears capable of playing at least three parts with one instrument, without once (well, maybe once) upstaging the dark star at the centre of the stage.
These quiet pyrotechnics allow Lindi to focus on delivering songs that regularly draw yelps of recognition from the appreciative crowd who wallow luxuriously in her triumphs and tragedies.
Ortega’s warm presence has the ability to make things intimate and expansive in turns. Dark ballads are whispered directly into your ear, a booth at the back of the bar-room, while others, such as Cigarettes and Truckstops with its honky tonk rhythms, reel you right back to the bar for a few quick chasers.
She’s at home on the stage, and shares it generously with a slightly overawed bloke from the crowd. They attempt an awkward waltz – not quite the dancing we were promised – but it’s well-received by the audience, while earlier a lucky birthday boy or girl is treated to a rendition of Happy Birthday that would make JFK blush.
A cover of The Eagles’ Desperado keeps the faithful happy, while Cher’s Bang Bang touches on familiar lovelorn ground, before she finally gets everyone shuffling their restless feet with a hustling hoedown that leaves us on a very definite high.
She may be Canadian, with Irish blood, but she can be filed next to Dolly in the country legends section of anyone’s collection without the slightest sheepishness.
Tom Hickox at Leaf Tea Shop, Liverpool
A very dapper Tom Hickox has a golden baritone that adds a weight and experience to songs you might expect to come from the pen of someone much older. Someone like Richard Hawley, perhaps, who he namechecks here.
From behind his keyboard, his seventies singer-songwriter schtick suggests his forthcoming album War, Peace and Diplomacy could be something of an unexpected gem.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Simon Lewis.
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