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Hannah Wicklund

Artist: Hannah Wicklund

Venue: London, Camden Assembly

Date: 21 November 2023

"In a world where technical ability often replaces emotion, Wicklund needs only a single note to connect with everyone in the room. Her playing emulates no one and bears itself like a manifestation of her soul."

Hannah Wicklund © Myke Gray
Hannah Wicklund © Myke Gray

The name Hannah Wicklund first came to my attention when I recently attended a Greta Van Fleet concert at Wembley Arena. As the opening act she only had twenty minutes to perform, but every second was made to count. The only word I word use to describe what I saw is breathtaking. It’s rare for a supporting artist to have such a dramatic impact. I could have written a short review, but when I found out she was headlining her own show a few days later, I asked my Editor if I could attend. Thankfully the answer was yes.

So on a chilly Tuesday night I head to the Camden Assembly. A venue that has been home to aspiring hopefuls such as Ed Sheeran, Adele and the Struts. It’s always interesting to see what kind of audience an artist attracts. Looking around I could see there was a mixture of younger people, who were predominately female, and older, who were predominately male. The cross section didn’t surprise me as Wicklund is a very rare talent. Not only blessed with an incredible voice, she is also a fantastic songwriter, and an absolutely brilliant guitarist. One week earlier I had stood in awe as I watched her conquer ten thousand people. But tonight would be a very different scenario. I was curious to see how she would handle the stark contrast.

The opening act Dead Writers put in a good performance and certainly warmed up the crowd. The applause they received was well deserved.

After a very quick change over it was time for the main attraction. Without any pomp or ceremony, the band took their positions with the minimum of fuss. Barefooted and wearing a tiara, Wicklund skipped onto the stage. She was immediately met by a huge outpouring of love. With a beaming smile and from under a cascade of curls she radiates star quality. Any stage, whether it be an arena or a club gig, would be her natural environment. But when you are born with such a prodigious talent it shouldn’t really be that much of a surprise.

The first song of the set was the brilliant ‘Hell In The Hallway’. Like all the great artists she has you hooked with the first line. Her voice is captivating. You can’t help but be enthralled by her stage presence. There was close to two hundred people in the club, but we were watching a performance that was worthy of twenty thousand, and this was just the first song. If the quality of her voice and songwriting are not enough, we can always talk about her guitar playing skills. In a world where technical ability often replaces emotion, Wicklund needs only a single note to connect with everyone in the room. Her playing emulates no one and bears itself like a manifestation of her soul. We are watching greatness.

The opener is closely followed by the seductive ‘Ghost’. Its delicate melody highlights the finesse and control of her vocal ability. To be a world class singer and a world class guitar player are talents that very few artists have ever possessed. You would be blessed to have either of these gifts, but to have both is like holding the holy grail. Third up was ‘Witness’. A song that deserves to be a global smash. To my ears it’s a classic, a song that will be listened to for decades. The vocal performance was stunning and yet it seemed effortless. By the end of song three I didn’t think I could be more impressed than I already was, I was wrong; ‘Hide and Seek’ showed the darker side to her writing, its dynamic arrangement creating space for a spectacular vocal performance. It’s interesting to note that a smile is never far from her face while she is singing, but throughout each solo she holds a look of serene concentration.

Then, in a slightly unexpected twist, the rest of the band leave the stage, leaving the singer to perform three songs unaccompanied. Many musicians would shy away from being so vulnerable. It takes a brave heart to be so exposed with nowhere to hide. Not the case for this performer. Her power only intensified. A quality that separates the great from the good. The audience were so emotionally engaged you could have heard a pin drop throughout ‘Song Bird Sings’, ‘Shadow Boxes’ and ‘Versus The Villain’. It was a privilege to be in the room and witness such an intimate moment. Her engagement with the fans in-between songs is joyous. There is no pretence in anything she says and talks to them like friends.

The band return to the stage and prepare for the final third of the show. I will take this moment to introduce each of them. I know from experience how tough it is to find musicians that can interpret a writer’s vision, but this group of accomplished players fully understand what their roles are. Drummer Luke Mitchell, bassist Kevin Early, and Corey Campbell on keyboards allow themselves to become an extension of Wicklund’s creativity. Each one has unquestionable ability and are more than capable of the subtleties and dynamics that the music requires. Tender and powerful in equal authenticity.

Kicking off the restart is ‘Strawberry Moon’, a fantastic song that featured another breathtaking vocal performance. It also contained a highly emotive guitar solo, showing the full dynamic range of her capabilities. The only artist I can think of who possessed the ability to switch between lead vocal and lead guitar to such a high standard is Prince; arguably the greatest musician of all time. What came next was more of a jam than a song. We watched as a sonic stream of consciousness poured from her fingers. This kind of improvisation can often be anti-climatic, and see a musician become so self-indulgent they are completely unaware that they are losing their audience. However, the greats like Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Angus Young and Gary Moore have turned it into an art form. Wicklund unquestionably falls into this category.

‘Bomb Thru the Breeze’ was full blown Classic Rock, showing that she can rock out with the best of them. The final song of the main set was ‘Can’t Get Enough’, a composition structured around some very dramatic dynamics. I can only assume it’s the last song because it’s so emotionally draining. It’s understandable why anyone would need to take a breather after such an outpouring. As the set closed you could tell that Wicklund was extremely grateful of the love and support she had received from the audience. Someone had brought her flowers and many gifts were handed to her on stage. A sign of the adoration that she garners from her many admirers.

There was no way that she wouldn’t return to the stage and when she did she named and thanked each one of her band members. Her parents were in the audience and you could tell this meant a great deal to her. Her brother is also the drummer so you sense this is very much a family affair. The encore was ‘Mama Said’, a song that featured an extensive guitar solo utilising a talk box, an effect that was made famous by Peter Frampton in the seventies and more recently used by Ritchie Sambora on ‘Living On A Prayer’. As a guitar player Hannah Wicklund is up there with the greats. Her playing is incredibly soulful and emotive, her timing is impeccable, she never overplays and her choice of note is always the right one. She is an enigma. The most naturally gifted artist I have seen this year. A world class musician, songwriter and performer who I would say is capable of achieving anything she puts her mind to.


Review and photos: Myke Gray




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