REVIEW: Hazel O’Connor at Lowdham Village Hall

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On an evening when a bit of warmth was needed, this Hazel O’Connor gig at Lowdham Village Hall certainly did the trick. Not only was the ambience in the room comforting with its subdued lighting and convivial audience, but the atmosphere created by Hazel O’Connor and her two supporting musicians, Sarah Fisher (keyboards) and Claire Hirst (saxophones) was most inviting.

O’Connor hit fame in the early 1980s with her ‘in your face attitude’, and hits like Decadent Days and Eighth Day, and with a starring role in the film Breaking Glass. Whilst time has certainly not mellowed her passions, this affair was perhaps rather more relaxed than some of her earlier outings. Indeed, rather than just rebelliousness and high energy, there were moments of soulfulness and tenderness.  Her backing duo. Fisher and Hirst had also seen the limelight in the 80s. Fisher playing with the Eurythmics and Hirst as a Bellestar. Each were given the limelight when soloing, as O’Connor tactfully retreated to the unlit area to the rear of the stage.

As might be expected, O’Connor worked through much of the Breaking Glass album and the old hits. However, there were also some newer songs and a couple of covers. Three of her more contemporary tracks dripped with politicism. St Valentine’s Day lamented mass, school shootings in the USA, Wakey Wakey railing against the rise of Donald Trump, and, My Friend Jack exposing the plight of a homeless Vietnam Veteran. It was clear from the energy with which she struck her bodhrán during Wakey Wakey, that she was less than a fan of the current president!

Between numbers, O’Connor filled the audience in with details of the origins of many of the tracks. Perhaps most moving were a pair written in memory of her mother who died of cancer a few years back. The first, I’ll Give You My Sunshine, to uplift her Mum in her later days, whilst I’ll Always Be There was inspired by the lines of a poem from her mother.

As an eleven, year old O’Connor was enraptured by a Nina Simone b side, Jimmy Webb’s, Do What You Gotta Do. O’Connor’s soulful rendition more than did it justice, as did her take on Billie Holiday’s God bless the Child.

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Now a resident of Wicklow, Irish influences were more than evident on Acoustically Yours. With Fisher and Hirst supporting both on bodhrán and vocals, O’Connor created a special moment.

Will You, which ‘kind of evolved into a love song’, and the afore mentioned Decadent Days, brought the main concert to a close. Hirst immediately recognisable, extended sax solo in Will You was more than enthusiastically received by the crowd. The best was still to come, however. An encore of Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars and O’Connor’s own Still Breathing had the sold-out crowd singing along. O’Connor and Fisher conducted a sing off between the left and right halves of the hall with each siding with one performer. Suffice to say, given the volume generated, everyone was a winner.

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