Live Review from 14th Year Anniversary Party
1. Let’s Go
2. Another Page
3. Things You’ll Never Know
4. Hong Kong Song
5. You Don’t Know
6. Fallen Soldier
7. Leave a Light On (Belinda Carlisle cover)
The first act on The Underground’s 14th birthday roster, Scottish singer-songwriter Laura Kenny showed no hint of trepidation as she took the audience on a journey through intricately detailed folk songs, delivered with a crystal clear, warm, enchanting voice that recalled a young Madonna with a touch of Andrea Corr.
Each song was preceded by a brief anecdote that added colour and context. Opener Another Page was “about missing someone far away”. The tearjerker track had a country feel, addressed to an unknown, faraway recipient, to whom Kenny urged, “Won’t you save a few more lines just for me?” She wasn’t referring to drugs; rather, asking the subject to put pen to paper and express their feelings about her.
“Relationships are like a book: they have a start and an end and hopefully a good story. But this is about a relationship that never got off the ground – it just had a start and an end,” Kenny said, introducing Things You’ll Never Know, a moving and relatable narration of a love never given the chance to flourish. Over rapid, almost Bluegrass-style strumming, Kenny’s lyrics the raconteurial flair of John Mayer, singing: “I’ll be out on the town with my friends but I’m thinking of you and the things that could have been … I’ve learned to let go of the things you’ll never know.”
Compared to the agonising poignancy of the previous track, the following Hong Kong Song seemed a bit trite. “It’s my love letter to Hong Kong and all the things I’ll take with me when it’s my time to depart,” Kenny said, revealing that after the best part of the decade in the city, she was making preparations to leave. Although certain lines verged on cliche, the lyrics captured some of the city’s most famous characteristics without being overly sentimental: sunset on skyscrapers, bankers rushing around, “You can’t see the horizon but you’ll have 2,000 neighbours”.
“I see some of you are here to rock, so I hope I’m not a disappointment!” the self-deprecating singer laughed, adding: “This is an angry song from when I was just venting.” You Don’t Know, a song about not wanting advice someone paired choppy, palm-muted strumming with a defiant chorus that temporarily gave the set a harder edge.
Fallen Soldier had one of the best anecdotes: the song was written about Kenny’s travels in Thailand and Myanmar learning about the prisoners of war who built the railways. She spotted the headstone of a soldier who shared her last name and felt compelled to write music inspired by the deep sense of empathy she experienced. To someone who hadn’t heard Kenny’s passionate explanation of the track’s backstory, the lyrics may have seemed too on-the-nose, a little too ‘Fox and Friends’, but the song was carried well by Kenny’s earnest vocals and Alanis Morissette-style guitar.
For her final performance, Kenny opted for a sparkling cover of Belinda Carlisle’s 1989 Leave a Light On, a song “any girls my age would have had on a tape”, bringing her timeslot to close with a foot-stomping chorus. “As the day is over, no one mourns the sun,” Kenny sung during her ode to Hong Kong. The same couldn’t be said of the crowd, left enraptured at the end of her shining set, hoping for more and mourning her impending departure from both the stage and Hong Kong.
– El Jay
1. Leave a Light On – Belinda Carlisle
2. Use Somebody – Kings of Leon
3. Show Me Heaven – Maria McKee
4. Let’s Go – Original song w Jon on drums
5. 500 Miles – The Proclaimers
6. Here I Go Again – Whitesnake
Laura Kenny, is not new on the local underground music scene. Having spent countless hours gigging around Hong Kong, playing a combo of covers and originals, she has chocked up some performance mileage that has honed a guitar tone and voice that can only be described as brilliant, sweet and so powerful at the same time. All she needs to get you moving was her voice and guitar.
Opening with an upbeat acoustic version of Belinda Carlisle’s Leave a Light On, was spot on introduction to what she could do. I imagined if Ms. Carlisle was to ever do an MTV unplugged it would sound exactly like how Laura Kenny did it. A combination of energy and a bit of groove thrown in with her playing made this a lively and laid-back start to the evening.
With a bit of banter aside, she launched into a ridiculously soulful rendition of Use Somebody by Kings of Leon. I have to say the sound guy nailed her mix, as it was just the right combination of reverb on her voice and guitar in the house. Having heard the Kings of Leon version too many times to mention this was a welcome change to the over produced and bit too shouty vocals from the original.
90s music is surely making a comeback and Laura Kenny’s cover of Maria McKee’s Show Me Heaven is a good reminder that people just don’t write songs that good no more. It was a great song choice, as it showcases Kenny’s full range as a musician. She’s got this song in a Tom Petty/Melissa Etheridge vibe and her vocal styling coupled with her guitar playing and that hot Scottish accent made it so enjoyable. I think the song wasn’t as familiar in the room, but no matter, as every single person still hung on her ever word and chord.
Though the night was supposed to be all about cover songs, a few bands were able to sneak in a few originals. Let’s Go marked Laura’s own foray into original music territory and a slight tonal deviation from the evening, as she brought on a drummer, who happened to be the producer of her forthcoming album. It was a super cool track, a bit of Jack Johnson in its vibe with a bit more energy and edge. The drums did help bring a bit more dynamics to the track and makes me curious to hear the full song when her album is released.
After that though, it was back to the covers and arguable one of the more popular songs of the set. Maybe it was the Scottish connection, or the ridiculously large contingent she brought with her, but her version of 500 miles by The Proclaimers was definitely a crowd pleaser. She slowed it down, and turned it into a ballad. Almost to a point where you felt her singing from the perspective of a person who lost a partner and wished he/she could do the things they sung about for him/her. Kinda like how Bon Jovi’s “Always” goes, without the overwrought lyrics and ever emphasised vibrato.
For her last song, she unleashed on us a very acoustic rendition of Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again. Normally a rousing 80s track, But armed with only a acoustic, she did her Laura Kenny thing and turned into a up tempo folk song. Without all the electric guitars and drums, it took almost all the verse for some people to figure out the song, but for the few of us who knew the song, I could see were all singing along.
The local people who didn’t know who she was when she started but by the end of her set were fans of her. I know I was and am looking forward that album and to see what she will do in the near future.
– Jon Lee
Live review from Fluorescent Hearts live in Hong Kong:
2. Another Page
3. First Cut is the Deepest (Cat Stevens Cover)
Laura Kenny was a trooper Saturday night. She warmed up the stage with a charismatic and down-to-earth performance, fittingly singing the lyrics “I’ll just go on and drive”. Despite having been sick for a couple of days, the singer-songwriter (accompanied briefly by Danielle Vita on the violin) powered through to give us some nicely blended folk tunes and stellar vocals, high notes and all.
Not only did she offer us a beautifully crisp and clear sound but she also easily managed to dissolve the barrier between stage and audience with a charming sense of humour.
– Natalia Bodomo