Live Review

Lisa Mitchell, Manchester Night & Day

There’s a certain stigma about appearing on television talent shows…

There’s a certain stigma about appearing on television talent shows, no matter which one you choose to enter. Whether you’re spinning plates or trying to prove to the public that you’re worthy of the guaranteed Christmas number one that winning X Factor brings, there’s always a difficulty in making yourself an artist in your own right. Very few people have managed it – on these shores, Will Young and Girls Aloud are the two biggest successes, whilst Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Clarkson are two notable names from the other side of the Atlantic.

Aiming to steer clear from being associated with acts such as One True Voice and Steve Brookstein, Australia’s Lisa Mitchell certainly has the talent to go far beyond the show that brought her fame. Taking to the stage of Manchester’s Night and Day Café with her, she exudes charm and humility to a crowd that are clearly in awe. Though television’s singing contests may be criticised on many fronts, it does provide a platform for those with spectacular voices, and Mitchell proves that she falls into that bracket time and time again. Most encouraging is the fact that she never lets this attribute dominate her songs, even when performed live, straying away from the usual Mariah Carey-esque showmanship that ex-contestants often indulge in. Instead, she allows her trademark husky vocals to furnish the mainly folk-inspired acoustic guitar songs, and her kinsmanship with the rest of the band means that it feels far from a solo gig.

Indeed, if the audience are taught anything through this gig, it’s that Mitchell is a woman of many talents. As well as playing her guitar for most of the gig, she also turns her hand to the keyboard for some tracks to great effect. However, despite her obvious potential, it’s still mainly the tracks themselves that are the gig’s main let down. ‘Neapolitan Dreams’, the final song of the performance, is easily the highlight, and rightly so. Both on record and in the flesh, it’s a captivating, inspired song which showcases Mitchell’s unique style perfectly. From the catchy chorus to quirky lyrics such as ‘I like the way that you talk/I like the way that you walk/It’s hard to recreate/Such an individual gait’, it’s near perfect, and it’s obvious from the reaction it receives that others agree.

It’s unfortunate that the set regularly dips into the dull pop that makes up most of her album. It’s when Lisa covers ‘Romeo and Juliet’ when the gulf in quality becomes most obvious. Powerful and touching, she imbues the Dire Straits classic with more emotion than Knopfler and the gang ever managed. In comparison, ‘So Jealous’ and ‘Coin Laundry’ sound weak and throwaway, which they mainly are. With the right promotion, Mitchell could easily follow down the route of contemporaries like Newton Faulkner, whom she recently supported on tour, selling thousands of supermarket CDs to punters who’d like an easy listen on the drive to work. What’s more frustrating is that her performance often shows glimpses that she has the potential to be so much more than that.

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