Courtney Marie Andrews – Live in London Union Chapel – Review ****

Since her appearance on Jools Holland’s Later show in April 2017 Courtney Marie Andrews’ profile has risen continually in the UK. She played a stunning solo gig at Islington’s famous Union Chapel, one of the top venues a solo artist can play.

She opened with Put The Fire Out from her 2016 breakthrough album Honest Life. Most of the tracks came from that album or her latest offering May Your Kindness Remain.

“I booked this [solo] tour to sing some old and new songs and tell some stories” she said. She debuted two new songs Must Be Somebody Else’s Fault and Ships In The Night. Andrews is a gifted songwriter and these songs are up to her normal high standard.

She came on stage with several cups of potions for a bad cold/laryngitis and it soon became apparent that she was suffering. First-timers would have been hard pressed to know, but having now seen five of her shows in 2018 it appeared that things weren’t quite right with her.

Her vocals were strong at first, but she couldn’t stop her coughing in-between tracks and finally she had to say “I’m sorry, I’m sick”. The crowd willed her on and she bravely persevered to the end. Due to laryngitis she cut the stories down a little, but still gave some interesting insights into songs such as Irene, written about a friend, and Paintings From Michael about an uncle incarcerated in prison.

For the most part Andrews stuck to her guitar but went to the piano for several numbers. Standout tracks from the first half of the show included Seatown and the breathtakingly beautiful Near You. Then a real treat as she was joined on stage by BJ Cole, the renowned pedal steel player who had originally accompanied Andrews on her appearance on the Later show.

Cole is a master of his instrument, with soaring solos and sympathetic accompaniment which added to the already magical atmosphere. He was to remain on stage for the rest of the gig and his playing perfectly augmented Andrew’s songs, including Honest Life, Table For One and Border.

Andrews brought on Oliver Spalding and Jack Watts, an Americana duo who Andrews has produced, and Bess Attwell as backing vocalists who added gorgeous vocal texture to Let The Good One Go and Long Road Back To You. There was a splendid cover of Neil Young’s One Of These Days and she finished solo with an unplugged version of May Your Kindness Remain. This seemed a slightly strange decision for someone struggling with her voice, and she was struggling at the end, but one perhaps borne out of desperation and the emotion of the occasion.

Since the London gig Andrews has had to cancel or reschedule her next three shows due to her poor health, in Birmingham, Bristol and Oxford. It shows just how good she is when she can still command a four-star review for the London show from The Guardian whilst being “very sick”. She is a true professional. Without illness, without doubt this would have been a five-star performance.

Get well Courtney. All your fans in the UK send you their love and best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Words by Chaz Brooks

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