Support from Lola Kirke
I still can't believe how much the Arts Centre has changed since my student days. Long gone are the rough round the edges bands like King Adora and The Llama Farmers, replaced with acts that are more "arty" and a little outside the box.
This gig was definitely something different for me, ask me 12 months ago and I "can't stand country" now with a much more open mind and a broadened horizon I embrace trying something new.
I went along to this with high expectations having listened to vast amounts of both artists' back catalogues.
Sitting in the beer garden nursing my rather enjoyable shandy I struck up a random music conversation with a fellow lone gig goer, only to be joined by another a short while later. Sometimes this is the best part of gigs, the conversations with people who are as passionate about music as I am. Often people will say to me "I don't know how you can go to gigs on your own, you're brave" but my response is I'd rather go on my own than drag someone along who's not really interested and spend the night worrying if they're alright and watching their face get more and more bored. I always find people to chat to, and if I don't, who cares I'm there for the music not a conversation!
First up tonight was actress and singer Lola Kirke an ex pat who's been living Stateside for many years. From looking a Lola's social media which was full of thigh high boots and raunchy photos I definitely wasn't expecting the songstress to take to the stage in a very conservative peasant style dress and bare feet but I guess Norwich Art Centre wasn't ready for too much sex appeal!
Her sound is a beautiful chilled out country vibe. The type of songs you could imagine singing sat round a campfire on a hot summer night. It's a peaceful relaxing sound that makes you feel comfortable and at one with life. Lola's voice is wonderful with the twang you expect from a good country singer.
The set was received well by the crowd who appeared largely unfamiliar with her work. Lots of clapping and approving nods. I hate using the word nice, but everything about Lola's set was nice from the music to her on stage demeanor. Recorded her sound is a bit more rocky and I'd like to see her perform with a full band but I enjoyed the acoustic and also surprised myself just how much I like simple country music.
In contrast to Lola most of the songs by Courtney Marie Andrews I'd heard prior to the gig were acoustic and also had the campfire feel so I was surprised when she took to the stage with a full band.
Kicking off the set was my favourite "Must Be Someone Else's Fault" which, and to contradict my previous statement, had a less country more dancy 80s feel recorded however live it was very quintessential country. A great song either way but definitely very different live.
Set went through lots of songs I'd heard once or twice but wasn't familiar with to say I knew. They were great, Courtney has a lovely voice with a great tone that is easy to listen to.
About mid she moved from guitar to piano and played some more laid back numbers which led up to one song, I can't recall the name, that ended in a full blown jam session that any hardened metal band would have been proud of!
The set seemed to last a long time, which I found a little too much. While I've warmed to country music it still isn't fully my thing so I have to admit I did start getting a little bored just past the hour mark. I'm used to lots of bouncing and high paced rock bands so this was a little too laid back for me.
Courtney played lots of songs from previous albums which got the audience singing a tapping as well several new songs that were hit with the crowd. Tell me why there's always to be that one over enthusiastic fan who keeps shouting at any quiet moment and telling the artist how great they are. I'm a self confessed fangirl over so many bands but I draw the line at constantly shouting at gigs to tell them!
Later in the set when introducing a new song Courtney mentioned it was about "summer nights" to which the band started playing the song from Grease while Courtney purposefully sang out of tune. It raised a smile and a bit of humour to the proceedings which was nice.
I had to bail slightly early as I needed to get a bus back to rural North Norfolk and by that point I was ready to leave. Not because the gig was bad, far from it I was just ready to get my headphones in and listen to something a bit heavier.
Overall, I enjoyed the gig as a first trip into live country music. I'd have preferred a short festival set as that would have kept my interest better. Both Courtney and Lola are very talented ladies and both have gone a long way to changing my views on the country, although I’m not sure I’ll ever call myself a fan of the genre.