This was the second of two packed nights at Bush Hall and Courtney Marie Andrews and her band took to the stage and launched into Rookie Dreaming, the opening track from her current album Honest Life. Andrews’ vocals and her appearance at once suggest that you could be watching a young Joni Mitchell but it does not take long to be swept up into Andrew’s world. And although you occasionally get a jolt of how Joni Mitchell like she is on certain tracks, this does not detract from the enjoyment of listening to Andrews and her band.
Sea Town was next, a more up tempo offering and a real band effort with the bass and drums leading a tight jam to accompany Andrews’ vocals. She then told us that she was recording a new album after the tour ended and the next tune, Buffalo, was going to be on it. It was a song that resonated with the audience being all about the gentrification of neighbourhoods and the loss of local identification. The song was reminiscent of The Band and was a nice taster of where Andrews is going musically. Joking about déjà vu having, played the same venue the night before, Andrews was engaging (as she was throughout the evening) before playing Put The Fire Out which was very well received by the audience. Long Road Back To You was a marvellous demonstration of the clarity of Andrews’ voice which can be powerful or quiet but still have a purity about it.
Andrews then had the band leave the stage and proceeded to do some solo acoustic songs, each with their own back story that was related to the audience with Paintings From Michael the stand out here. She was then joined by her guest BJ Cole on pedal steel guitar, the pair having met earlier when Cole had accompanied her on her appearance on Later with Jools Holland in April this year – a performance which arguably launched her into the public domain in the UK. She joked that the first time they played together was on a live TV show seen by millions and tonight they were playing a small venue in Shepherds Bush to several hundred people so busking must be next on that trajectory for them both. They played Not The End, a song she wrote the day after the elections in the USA to respond to the vile comments made by the hard line and Cole’s skills were ably displayed with some beautiful playing, as they were again on Honest Life, the title track of Andrew’s album.
The band re-joined Andrews and Cole for How Quickly your Heart Mends which was quickly followed by a firm crowd favourite, Table For One, and both were stand out performances of the evening receiving lots of cheers and applause. 15 Highway Lines showed both lyrically and vocally an artist whose maturity is going from leaps to bounds and who seems to get better with each album and then there was Irene. With its irresistible melody (and mass swaying of the crowd as if they were all in a trance) this is probably Andrews at her most Joni Mitchell but that is not a bad thing as this track, like many others, is still clearly her own and the song draws you straight in and does not release you until it is done.
The encores were swift with a new song thrown in and another demonstration of Andrews’ soulful voice. The final song of the night saw Andrews doing a cover of Dylan’s Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You. Judging by the ample applause and cheering that greeted her when she had finished, I think the audience wished that she could stay and that the show could have gone on all night.
photography by Carl Warren