The last time Courtney Marie Andrews played London was September last year when she was riding high after her appearance on Later with Jools Holland, selling out two nights at Bush Hall. I attended and reviewed these gigs here and thought it would be interesting to see how far she has come since last year when she told the audience she was recording a new album playing several songs that would eventually surface on ‘May Your Kindness Remain.’ The album came out in March this year and tonight’s show featured many songs from this latest release.
Standing behind a microphone which was decked in flowers, Andrews, with her long straight hair and flowing white dress looked very much like a young Joni Mitchell as she opened the show with ‘Long Road Back To You.’ This was followed by ‘I’ve Hurt Worse’ and ‘Two Cold Nights In Buffalo,’ both songs showing that Andrews continues to grow as a songwriter and musician with a much broader sound than on the previous album, ‘Honest Life.’ ‘Two Cold Nights’ has the swagger and scope of something The Band may have recorded and was very well received by the packed Assembly Hall. Next up was ‘Table For One,’ always a crowd favourite and greeted with much applause. She then played the brooding ‘Near You’ which had an extended outro part where the band jammed like Neil Young & Crazy Horse. ‘Rough Around The Edges’ followed and showed again the change from the previous album’s mostly acoustic sound to the warm full band arrangements she is now creating. Andrews is very likeable in her quiet and unassuming way between songs and her banter often had the audience laughing along with her as she laughed at herself. For ‘This House,’ Andrews took to the keyboard, where she stayed for ‘Kindness Of Strangers,’ one of the highlights of the evening along with the song that followed, ‘How Quickly Your Heart Mends.’
Andrews explained that she and the band had been touring for seven straight weeks so they liked to do something different each night to shake things up a bit. She then performed ‘Love Debt,’ a song written for her aunt who at the time had cancer but has since recovered. She did not put it on the new album as it did not seem to fit but the band told her she should play it more often. Tonight it was very good but would have been more at home on ‘Honest Life’ and you could see why she had chosen not to include it on the latest album. ‘Border’ was quite menacing in its sonic quality, which suited the lyrics perfectly and the band took another extended Crazy Horse break during this number. ‘Sea Town,’ ‘Took You Up,’ ‘Warning Sign’ and ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ all followed in quick succession as the band headed towards the end of the show. The latter song was beautiful and showed the purity of Andrews’ vocals and the advancing skills of this singer-songwriter. There was rapturous applause as the band left the stage.
An encore followed, firstly with ‘Let The Good One Go’ and then another crowd favourite and still one of her most jaunty numbers, ‘Irene‘ which was a standout of the evening. The show closed with a rousing rendition of Little Feat’s ‘Willin’’ and Andrews was cheered loudly once the song was over.
In the same way as the new album is a departure from the previous, so was tonight’s show compared to last year’s. Andrews and the band continue to grow and evolve and tonight showcased this in both new songs and sounds. It is hard to say if one is better than the other, as they are both great and tonight we were given the best of both worlds.