Laura Elizabeth Hughes at Whelan’s – Review & Photos
Laura Elizabeth Hughes at Whelan’s – April 3rd
The soft lighting set against the blood red curtains at the back of the stage and the candlelit tables dotted around the room make the upstairs venue in Whelan’s a pleasantly intimate musical space. It’s the perfect setting for an artist like Laura Elizabeth Hughes, whose soaring songs from a broken heart demand the silent attention of the audience.
This rapt attention was also afforded to the support acts on the night, both of whom showed a lot of promise. Mark Campbell played a mix of covers and songs from his currently unnamed band. His last song, about a brief meeting with a girl in New York, was particularly impressive. Ailbhe Reddy was next up and her raw tunes full of interesting chord changes went down really well with a room that was rapidly filling up in anticipation of the night’s main attraction.
From the moment Laura Elizabeth Hughes’s voice soars over the gentle finger picking of opening song ‘Recall’ the crowd are transfixed, only the odd shuffling of feet or movement of a chair can be heard during the songs before an avalanche of applause at the end of each number.
Next up is ‘Hearts and Spades’, whose jaunty opening gives way to some lovely bluesy chords, and this is followed by the superb ‘For The Birds’. Again there’s some nice off colour picking while the lyrics are incredibly clever, weaving a tale of wistful, bitter resentment before the chorus booms out over the room.
Laura’s confident, easy going stage manner make her incredibly likeable; she’s not afraid to poke fun at herself for the downbeat nature of her songs and the failed relationships that have inspired them. One would hope she eventually finds happiness but then the well of beautiful songs might dry up, quite the conundrum really.
‘Rock the Boat’ continues the mournful theme. As Hughes sings the line “hold a heart far too tight and watch it disappear” there are a few knowing, agreeing nods amongst the crowd. ‘Paper Thoughts’ and ‘Who Is That Stranger’ sound even better when played live than they do on her recently released self titled EP.
A couple of brand new songs also get an airing, ‘Sweet Nothing’ and ‘Afloat’. ‘Afloat’ is particularly impressive, country tinge finger picking lead to a frantically strummed crescendo. The confident, strident delivery of ‘8/7’ is sandwiched between the two new songs and goes down really well with the audience.
Laura certainly seemed to enjoy one of her biggest gigs yet, so much so that she forgot to leave the stage and went straight in to her encore songs. She did end on a happy note though, ‘Fear of Falling’ is a fantastic upbeat tune that travels up and down the fretboard and shows that there’s more in her armoury than the generally downbeat songs that fill most of the set.
From recording songs in her bedroom and uploading them on YouTube to headlining Whelan’s, Laura herself admits that the past two years have been pretty crazy for her. With that note perfect, glorious voice, clever lyrics and growing catalogue of great songs, there’s every chance that the next couple of years could prove to be even crazier for this special, young Irish talent.
Review by Mark O’Brien
Photos by Tudor Marian