I was in an easy-going mood as I entered the Union Chapel on Sunday evening for the latest gig of the Sadie and the Hotheads tour. I’d bagged free tickets, and looked forward to some half-decent, laid back country tunes in the company of Downton Abbey’s Lady Cora.
For those needing a catch up, whilst Elizabeth McGovern has become a familiar face through the increasingly bewildering, but doubtless popular, Downton Abbey she also harbours a not-so-secret desire to be a rock chick, and is currently touring the Hotheads’ second album, How Not To Lose Things.
A by-no-means packed Union Chapel witnessed McGovern sashay onto the stage at around 9pm, looking rather beautiful in a red and black lace dress, and throw herself into One Thing Leads to Another, supported ably by her accomplished and experienced band. Whilst all thoughts of Lady Cora were banished by this lovely vision (My Debt Collector alludes to her great legs, so I don’t have to), one still had to endure the sound of a voice warming up, and the occasional clichéd rhyming couplet; three or four songs in it could have all gone as flat as the some of the notes.
However, the band launched into The Cow Song and all was saved; it bounced along heartily, full of delightful imagery and humour, and the audience rewarded it with the night’s biggest cheer.
McGovern formed the Hotheads in 2007 having received guitar lessons and an encouragement to write, and her songs seem to draw largely on her experiences as a mother and wife, whilst confusingly also making a short stop in West Hollywood. She introduced each song with a little story, but almost seemed self-conscious being herself, oddly recalling Andie MacDowell in Four Weddings. The band, on the other hand, were having a ball.
There was just enough variety and wit in the remaining songs to keep it interesting – Drops of Rain was a poignant reminder of the short time we have with our children, and Wedding Song put us in the shoes of a bride and groom on their big day. Perhaps it the variance of lyrical and musical styles on display that kept it fresh – the country feel predominated, but there were small servings of jazz, pop and folk woven into it. Just as things were getting soft and warm, with McGovern herself easing into the role as well, they announced their last song and were off, only to pause for the shortest possible break before delivering a final encore which gave each of the band members the moment to shine in their own solo.
Over a wine in the bar after the show there was time for reflection – a solid show with strong tunes delivered with enough charm and good intention to overlook any deficiencies in the strength of the voice or performance of the central draw. McGovern wandered into the bar later to meet and greet, whilst her nephew circled the room with a stack of CDs for sale. Even the big stars, it seems, need their nearest and dearest to help make ends meet.