REVIEW: Hannah Rosa @ The Waiting Room 11.10.13

Hannah Rosa

Hannah Rosa and her band took to the performance area at The Waiting Room in West End to a packed in crowd. The ambiance was a little offset by the stuffiness of the compact space, but was otherwise perfect for the style of music Hannah performs. Couches, fairy lights and the BYO rule uphold the homely atmosphere of the venue.

With little time wasted setting up, Hannah’s warm vocals were an immediate hit, supported by ambient, thoughtful music from her pianist, drummer, bassist and guitarist. “You Can’t Get To Me” was the opener, a folk-driven song with strong rhythm that scaled back in the chorus to create the emotional build up again.

The second song of the set, “When the Lights Go Out” was particularly captivating. There was some energetic playing from Jacob De Weger, who had switched to bass by this point. Hannah sang high pitched vocal sounds which created an almost eerie feel to the song. The best bit was when she sang the line: When the lights go out/I’m all alone – at that moment, the fairy lights above my head reached the end of their on-off cycle, and the room reached its apogee of darkness. Thankfully at least I wasn’t all alone but it was a cool, coincidental moment.

Not the only one of the night though. At the end of a song that sounded like it belongs in a 70s crime drama, Jacob’s guitar buzzed with distortion, which fit so well with the music that it could have been deliberate. It particularly matched the drums of that song; the drummer wonderfully unafraid of using the low toms to give depth to the music.

The Waiting Room has two seating areas due to the L-shape of the room, with the performance area in the middle.  Although visible from either side, the performers could only face one section at a time. “I feel like I’m neglecting you guys,” Hannah said of the side I was on. Actions speak louder than words as she re-positioned her microphone to be favoring neither side.

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Photo by Dean Swindell

The song “You Chose Me,” was a nice change in mood, a warm airy tune reminiscent of Taylor Swift. Throughout this song, Hannah kept glancing to both sides of the room to make sure neither was ‘neglected.’ That kind of appreciation for the audience was reciprocated in the enthusiastic clapping. It also showed her strength with smaller, intimate crowds – her persona is genuine and grounded. For example, she dedicated the song “Tall Poppy” to her sister who had just had her wisdom teeth removed. The song choice was appropriate with lyrics like: I am a tall poppy/no you can’t cut me down.

The entire group kept the curiosity piqued as to who would be playing which instrument next. At one point mid-set, Hannah took over the keyboard, leading the band with some warm piano. Unlike some other bands who mix it up, these performers clearly did it for musical reasons – not just because they could, which often happens.

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Photo by Dean Swindell

This interchangeable nature of the band was definitely its forte. At times there were guitars, drums, bass and keys, creating an immense sound. Other times, electric guitar was absent, and of course, there was Hannah herself as a strong solo player – shown in her requested encore, “Liar.” This is perhaps where Hannah exposes her talent best, her words conjuring up some wonderful imagery, accentuated only by her acoustic guitar.

Hannah also keeps her songs from sounding too similar by shifting the key a fair bit and of course, removing and adding instruments as needed. The set though was quite brief, taking away the chance to form a more cohesive show. It would have been nice to have experienced more of the other instruments for a different dynamic and texture in some of the songs. The guitars and keys have been arranged well together but none really get a chance to show off.

Otherwise, the stuffy room was well worth the trade for an evening of beautiful music provided by an inviting, open performer. Hannah Rosa has just released her latest single “Delicate Love” and you check her out on FacebookTwitter and YouTube and iTunes.

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