Nashville, Tennessee-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Lera Lynn brought her Resistor tour to the UK for a run of shows including tonight’s stop at Islington’s Assembly Hall in support of her recently released fourth studio album – if we discount her significant contribution to last year’s soundtrack for season two of HBO’s hit crime drama series True Detective, in which she also picked up an acting part.
Appearing on stage wearing a black jacket over a white shirt and tight gold trousers, flanked by a bass player on her left, guitarist and producer Joshua Grange on her right and drummer Tommy Perkinson behind, the three in matching striped Barber Shop Quartet jackets, Lynn whispered “Hi, how are you?” to the Islington crowd before the group kicked off the night with The Avenues track Comin’ Down.
“Do you guys know that Bruce Springsteen is playing here tomorrow? I mean, not here but here as in London” the Houston-native said. “Since he’s going to be here, we’re going to do one of his songs” she continued. “Truth be told, we do it every set” she followed, enticing laughs from the crowd before launching into a rendition of 1978 Springsteen hit Fire.
“We performed on Jools Holland earlier this week, which was pretty damn fine” she said, referring to her appearance on Later… with Jools Holland alongside Biffy Clyro, Tame Impala and James Blake. “Was that boastful?” she asked with a smirk before launching into Resistor song For The Last Time which was performed for the television programme, the haunting downbeat track testing the upper bounds of Lynn’s vocals.
2014’s Hooked On You took the set in a slow blues direction before Lynn introduced punchy up tempo Resistor cut Shape Shifter. “We just released a new record called Resistor, we’re gonna do some of the songs from there. That’s my brilliant segue” she said, the new album’s opener most definitely radio-friendly fare, encouraging the North London crowd to move about a little.
An electronic Samba beat kicked off Resistor song What You Done before Perkinson took over rhythm duties for the moody tune, influences from her time working on True Detective certainly making their way onto the new record in a tune that could easily overlay credits at the start of a James Bond film.
True Detective cut My Least Favorite Life was greeted with cheers at its slowly picked out guitar introduction, the slow and haunting song one that tuned many of the UK audience into Lynn’s dark and soulful song crafting.
Attempting to steer the night in a political direction, an audience member asked of Lynn “What are your views on Donald Trump?” Observably riled, she responded: “Why does everyone ask us that? Do you really think we like Donald Trump? I’m wearing gold fucking pants!” she highlighted. Keen to move on she continued “alright, let’s play some music, fuck Donald Trump!” before carrying on the show with Lying In The Sun EP track I Become You, it’s slow build-up resulting in a satisfying crescendo.
“We live in Nashville, just so you know” the Houston, Texas native said before the quartet broke into slow blues Resistor song Scratch + Hiss before proceedings picked up with the early Sheryl Crow-esque Little Ruby, Lynn’s Americana roots firmly laid in one of the highlights of the new album.
The main set was closed out with Lying In The Sun EP track Free Is Never Free ahead of latest single Drive, it’s faster beat and pounding instrumental outro coupled with Lynn’s haunting vocals providing for a perfectly rousing closer, leaving the North London crowd desperate for just a little more music as Lynn and her band departed.
Returning to the Islington stage solo, the 31-year-old introduced True Detective song Church In Ruins “This is a song I wrote with T Bone Burnett” to cheers from the crowd, the song’s moody tone alternating with a happier one for the tap-along chorus.
As the band re-joined Lynn on stage, she said “We’re going to take you back [to the] first song I ever wrote. The first song I ever wrote, that I let anyone hear” she corrected, to ripples of laughter from the crowd, before launching into slow blues infused Whiskey featuring harmonies from the men on stage which turned Lynn’s brand of Americana to Country.
The near two-hour set was rounded out with a well-received but decidedly sombre rendition of Merle Kilgore’s Ring Of Fire, made famous by Johnny Cash, the track evoking a completely different emotion than the original, before the four-piece abandoned their instruments to huddle around a single low-set microphone for an a cappella outing of The Zombies’ The Way I Feel Inside, the four-part harmonies created demonstrating something completely different to the rest of the show, another feather in Lynn’s glowing cap.
Lera Lynn fills a void in the music market for thoughtful, well-crafted downbeat Americana, her delicate voice forming haunting melodies over rich guitars that evoke emotions on record that are spine-tinglingly amplified live. The live show complements her recordings as not simply a run-through of her material, but emotionally raw with cover versions of songs included seemingly to demonstrate her ability to turn things on their head uniquely.
Lynn continues her run of headline shows through the UK, Europe and Ireland before supporting Ben Folds in Birmingham, Edinburgh and Liverpool later this month.
Live review of Lera Lynn @ Islington Assembly Hall by Kalpesh Patel on 2nd June 2016.
Read Nicola Greenbrook‘s fabulous feature interview with Lera Lynn with exclusive portraits by Kalpesh Patel – Feature: Lera Lynn, Otherworldly Evocative Americana
Kalpesh has more music photography up on his flickr stream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somethingforkate