Sheffield-born singer-songwriter Philippa Hanna has building up a loyal fanbase since 2004. However, it’s her most recent album that’s proved to be her biggest yet – Come Back Fighting topped the UK iTunes Country Chart when it was released in December 2017. Now Philippa’s showcasing the live performance skills she’s honed over more than 1,000 shows on her tour in support of the record, including a show at London’s Bush Hall last night.
Hanna opened her set with Come Back Fighting, the title track from her current album. It’s a stomping, defiant number with a slinky groove and allowed her to show off the soulfulness in her voice, with a slight gravelly edge. Following that she performed Off The Wagon, a more country-influenced song with a huge chorus and a soaring vocal, particularly on the a capella bridge section.
Throughout her performance Hanna combined songs from Come Back Fighting with a range of hits from her back catalogue, and even threw in an acoustic version of Ed Sheeran’s monster hit Perfect with the lyrics tweaked to add a ‘gospel’ meaning. She also spoke very warmly and openly in between her songs, covering topics such as songwriting, moving to Nashville and her daily YouTube series, as well as her experience in the music industry and dealing with her dad’s leukemia diagnosis.
One thing that stood out to me in the performance was Hanna’s utterly incredible voice. She has a really great range and a lovely vocal quality, whether it’s her breathier tones on the stripped-back Getting On With Life, the sweet Raggedy Doll with its message of acceptance, or showing off the power in her voice on the dreamlike The Hero. Throughout the set she frequently encouraged the audience to join in and they responded by enthusiastically singing and clapping along.
Whilst I really enjoyed the more uptempo numbers such as Dorothy with its singalong chorus and the poppy, driving Speed Of Light, I felt Hanna particularly stood out in the slower numbers. Let It Fly had a bluesy, sultry feel about it and gave Hanna a chance to show off her vocal runs, whilst the shimmering piano-led Even Now – which Hanna dedicated to her fans – had a really nice cinematic quality. However, for me the standout moment was A Million Flowers. Hanna spoke very movingly about the story behind the song, which she was asked to write by a couple whose son died in an accident, and its lilting, folky arrangement allowed her delicate vocal to shine.
Hanna closed her set with I Am Amazing, an empowering anthem about believing in yourself and staying positive. The song showed off her sweet, clear vocals and quiet confidence, and she looked like she was having the time of her life on stage. For the encore, she sang the upbeat Made To Fly, which allowed her vocal to stand out, particularly on the bridge of the song.
Overall I thought Hanna fully showcased her singing ability and had a fantastic stage presence. She delivered a set full of fun pop- and rock-influenced songs and it was clear that both she and the crowd were enjoying themselves immensely. However, for me some of the songs were a bit too similar in terms of their structure and I would have liked a little more variety. But you can’t deny she’s an incredibly talented vocalist and a great performer.
Set list: 1. Come Back Fighting 2. Off The Wagon 3. Speed Of Light 4. Dorothy 5. Let ‘Em Fly 6. Getting On With Life 7. Raggedy Doll 8. A Million Flowers 9. Even Now 10. Perfect (Ed Sheeran cover) 11. Do The Unthinkable 12. The Hero 13. I Am Amazing 14. Made To Fly Performance date: 5th April 2018