Lisa Wright and Cam @ Islington Assembly Hall in London, UK
Review & Photography by: Robert Alleyne
Opening the night was Essex’s raised singer, Lisa Wright. Her set served as a reminder that that British country music has a place on the spectrum of Americana music. Often getting lost in the moment, she delivered a charming set with thoughtful songs and a stirring rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” With an original song, Tennessee, its’ about going to America to revitalize herself, when in fact it did the opposite was a highlight of her short opening set. With her thoughtful songs, and an incredible voice, you will most definitely hear about her a lot more in the Country industry.
Up next onstage was Cam who everyone had been patiently waiting for all night long. She started her show at North London’s Islington Assembly Hall with “Diane,” and never looked back. From the first lines of her current single, it felt like the entire audience had raised their voices in chorus for a rip-roaring start to the show. “Play it again” someone shouted from the crowd when she finished. On the night she performed with two guitarists for a stripped back set which lacks none of the veracity a full band could provide. I many ways, it let her voice soar above the accompaniment.
Cam, the Californian Americana singer, broke through with her 2015 single “Burning House.” Her strength is in her impeccable songwriting skills; her ability to paint watercolors with words and draw the heart out from wherever it is hiding. It is the delicate observations and gentle metaphors which make her music so enchanting to listen to. Her set was diverse, as she bounced around her back-catalog as well as previewing new music. New song “Forget You While I’m Alone,” drew silence a busy auditorium.
She appears to have a special connection with London, having played here a more than a handful of times in the last few years which is a rarity for many country singers. She even took time call out two of her local fans, Catherine and Lauren, surprising them she would be hanging out with them the following day.
Indeed, it was following a fan request that she included “Down That Road,” in the set. The song is an ode to her supportive parents, written after she realized “when you’re away chasing your dream you miss your parents getting old,” she told the intently listening audience. Cam also mentioned how it was also the song that helped her to get signed. There is a friendly warmth to Cam which helps to open up the music. At times I found myself looking forward to the honest, and often funny, monologues between songs. They helped to give the music new life.
During one of those monologues, Cam explained how she had planned to watch Sam Smith perform at the O2. However, before she knew it, he had invited her to sing “Palace,” the song they wrote together, Romeo and Juliet style, in front of 20,000 people! For the Islington Assembly Hall, she performed a beautifully sparse rendition. One which helped every word to settle like snowflakes over the ruins of those former relationships the song speaks to.
The show was more than subtle beauty. At times she drew inspiration from “the man in the Slayer shirt” for uptempo moments. “Runaway Train” had people clapping from the first beat, and “Manhunt” was an opportunity to let loose. “Why does a guy have to sing a badass song? Why can’t a chick sing a badass song?” she joked with the crowd while sharing the story of how Manhunt was almost given to another singer.
I heard two men arguing about who the best country singers of our generation would be earlier in the evening. “Cam has worked her way up into my top three,” said one – I am sure not many people in the attendance would disagree. Cam will be touring in the US in the next few weeks, and make sure to check Lisa and Cam out on social media!