Most of us are stuck in the gutter looking at the stars, others like Lisa Hannigan are shining brightly in the sky like a celestial angel sent to serenade us lowly wretches. With the help of contemporary chamber orchestra s t a r g a z e she has reimagined her songs for the stage, with her hometown Dublin show being recorded for this new release.
The album begins with warm applause and a few whoops, which tell us this Irish singer is rightly celebrated in her home country. Set opener Ora is a fitting beginning, her delicate voice singing ‘I’m going home / won’t you come with me’ as the orchestra creates seascapes of sound around her. It’s a transfixing beginning and you find yourself swept away from shore right into the waves with her.
Vocally Hannigan stuns on every song, creating intricate moments of emotion, echoed by her background singers. There is haunting and hypnotic quality to songs like Little Bird and Undertow, which feels both of the earth and otherworldly at the same time.The previously unreleased track Bookmark is brought vividly to life by the orchestra, who create an intense and almost sinister moment of unease. In contrast Anahorish is a stark lament, with just the sound of voices heard.
On Nowhere to Go she reminds us that those who wander will always find shelter if they look inside themselves. Swan blossoms in this setting, the modern synth sounds of the original transformed by the impressive orchestra. We the Drowned is quite an overwhelming surge of sound, and in the aftermath Lille feels like waking up after the shipwreck. Sail and Barton are darker moments of experimentation. Sometimes orchestral reworking of albums can sound gimmicky but Hannigan’s ambitious arrangements mean her voice blends beautifully into the orchestra, becoming one mesmerising instrument.
Final song Fall sounds like she is playing solo acoustic, a moment of reset and a reminder that simplicity can be equally as beautiful as the ornate.
Live in Dublin is an album of luminous wonders. Tilt your ear to the heavens and experience it for yourself.