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.
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.
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
- 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