Rend Collective at Manchester Academy, 13th May 2018

Good News was proclaimed in words and music in the Manchester Academy to a wildly enthusiastic crowd of over a thousand worshippers, as Rend Collective came back to the city as part of their latest tour, following the release of their chart-topping album, “Good News”.


Trinity Worship Project in Manchester
Trinity Worship Project in Manchester

First on stage was “Trinity Worship Project”, a collective of musos from the Worship Arts programme at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, Canada where Rend Collective have been working recently. The band, led by Mitchell Janzen and Kaleb Janzen on guitars and vocals, opened with the hymn All Creatures of our God and King and followed with some bright original songs. They were received with generous appreciation by the crowds.


Guvna B in Manchester
Guvna B in Manchester

The next artist thanked his audience for “putting up with some rap when they’d come for a folk band”. But this was not Shaggy at the Queen’s birthday party. This was Guvna B, and not a person in the hall was merely putting up with him. Guvna B, sharing the vast stage with just a drummer, owned the whole space with his boundless energy and humour. Even those who didn’t know his music were drawn in by his personality. What was also clear was his Christian faith – proudly proclaimed as a force for goodness and justice. If ever an artist left an audience wanting more it was Guvna B’s all too brief appearance.


Then came the group that even their leader Gareth Gilkeson calls “the Christian version of Mumford and Sons”. “Though at least we’re really Irish”, he adds, wryly. These days Rend Collective are folk-rock and more rock than folk. Once they would be swapping a dozen instruments between them in every song, now they are more likely to stick to guitars, bass, piano and drum kit – though we did see the odd appearance of the fiddle, the mandolin, the uke, and even the hurdy-gurdy.


Rend Collective in Manchester
Rend Collective in Manchester

Seven of the songs in their ninety-minute set were from the latest album, and presented in a way very familiar to those who knew the recording. Some oldies were there as well. “Build Your Kingdom Here” was included early on, and “My Lighthouse” predictably appeared in the encore.

Tracks from the new album came thick and fast: “Life is Beautiful”, “I will be Undignified”, “Marching On”. The crowd loved the confident proclamation of “Resurrection Day” and the more plaintiff “Counting Every Blessing”. For me the strongest new song is “Rescuer” with its strong clear lyrics, proclaiming God’s saving power and its nu-folk arrangement, complete with shouted “heys”.

A Rend gig is more than a show – it’s an encounter with God and with his people. The message from the stage is that there are no superstars in the kingdom of God, only worshippers. We were here to offer ourselves in praise to our Creator, not to a bunch of musicians, and praise we did. We also got a sermon as Gareth Gilkeson put down his drumsticks to preach a word of hope based around the message of the tour: bringing good news.

Rend Collective bring Good News in their exuberant music, in the joy of God they show through all they do and in their message of hope. They are a gift to the Church. Their visit to Manchester was an encouragement to those who were there. Their message, though, was that the Good News was to be transformative – not just for one gig but for changing the world.

words and pictures copyright Wayne Clarke @wayneaclarke for Faith in Manchester

Philippa Hanna and support, Night & Day Manchester, 4th April 2018

Philippa Hanna came to Manchester riding high on the success of her most recent alt-country album, Come Back Fighting. Best known within Contemporary Christian music, Philippa Hanna is making a name for herself in various places and platforms. She’s been getting radio time from the likes of Bob Harris and turning heads in Nashville. Her recent music has been likened to The Shires, spanning pop and country, both feisty and soul-baring.

Becky Higg

On a cold Wednesday night, The Night & Day Cafe, the stylish Northern Quarter venue was comfortably full of people aged 18 to granny. The evening started with local singer Becky Higg, who brought some plaintive acoustic numbers. Her highlight was, “Hold me Tight”, a reflection on finding hope in depression.



Second on was another Manchester performer, Lily-Jo, who sings pop with a fighting edge. Lily Jo is bold and magnetic, oozing confidence. She struck this reviewer as sounding like Philippa Hanna as she was ten years ago.

Lily-Jo sang “Beautiful Scars” and told us about her Lily-Jo Project, which supports people with mental health issues. She gave us her finest song, “Good Enough” and finished with “Unstoppable”, a song released with Philippa Hanna, which to my taste was a bit too preachy. But Lily-Jo is one to watch.

Philippa Hanna

Then came the main act, Philippa Hanna, with her “A Team” band – her husband Joel Cana on drums, his brother Josh on bass and keys and the brilliant Roo Walker on lead.

Most of Philippa’s 80 minutes comprised nine of the ten tracks from the Come Back Fighting album, but with less of a Nashville sound than the commercial release. The set started off with the title track and the standout “Off the Wagon”.

Most songs were introduced with the stories behind them, and nearly all of these were personal – her struggles, her fears and her passions. Between the songs there were a lot of stories of anxiety and depression and cancer. One song, Million Flowers, was written for the death of child. These were songs from the heart.

But there was also joy, and the joy was mainly in the music itself, which affirmed love and the power of survival, and a faith in Jesus Christ which carries hope in every note. The music is of the highest quality. Here is a singer reaching new heights, confident in her skin, skilled and talented and bold and powerful.

For one song, “Do the Unthinkable” Philippa even put down her guitar, which does seem to be her comfort-blanket at times, and sang without its support. Also included in this set was her recent cover of the Ed Sheeran smash “Perfect” with lyrics adapted to make them refer to the love of Jesus. This is slightly cheesy of course, but very well pulled-off and has had remarkable success on social media.

Overall, Manchester was treated to three female singers of the highest calibre, all singing of a Christian faith that gives strength to life. The whole evening rang with faith that empowers women, and all people. Such gigs bring hope and fortitude to the soul as well as a rocking good night out.

Philippa Hanna’s Set List

(all songs from the album Come Back Fighting 2017 unless indicated)

  • Come Back Fighting
  • Off the Wagon
  • The Speed of Light  The Speed of Light 2016
  • Dorothy
  • Let ‘em Fly
  • Getting on with Life
  • Hollywood  Through the Woods 2013
  • Raggedy Doll  Out of the Blue 2011
  • Million Flowers
  • Perfect  Ed Sheeran cover
  • Do the Unthinkable
  • The Hero
  • I am amazing  Out of the Blue 2011
  • Lighthouse  Through the Woods 2013


  • I saw the light
  • Arrow  The Speed of Light 2016


words and pictures copyright Wayne Clarke @wayneaclarke for Faith in Manchester