Lindi Ortega @ The Grand Social - Friday 15th January 2016

This is the Canadian songstresses third visit to Dublin and her first in this venue. This time out she has a bassist and drummer in tow as well as long time live guitarist Champagne James Robertson. The latter is an important foil for Lindi as well as a mesmerising and highly underrated player. But it is the lady who is front and centre. She arrives onstage in a black fringed poncho, short black skirt and trademark red cowboy boots. As she has always done she gives a performance that is giving and total. She opened by saying that the mirrorball in the venue remind her of playing a prom and that she was dumped the night before her own prom night. A remark that sets the tone for her many songs of mismatched and rear-ended relationships.

Dying Of Another Broken Heart a song from her first album is one of the highlights tonight. Songs from her four albums pepper the set alongside some well chosen covers which include her version of the Bee Gees To Love Somebody  - a song she first heard by Nina Simone and one which had the audience singing along with her - something that brough a big smile to her face and a note of thanks afterwards. Sam Cooke’s Bring It On Home To Me gets a soulful reading and showed how versatile the band are and how easily they can shift gear while maintaining an overall feel behind Ortega’s voice. The no holds barred delivery occasionally goes slightly off pitch, something she notes herself but in the context of a passionate performance is not something that in any way effects the song effectiveness. A brooding and psychedelic Ring Of Fire closed the show. A song that summed up a fiery performance from the rhythm section (Ryan Gavel on bass and Noah Huntgate on drums), from Roberston’s Telecaster and from Ortega herself.

Other songs included Lived And Died Alone, Run Down Neighbourhood, I Ain’t The Girl, Ashes and High, a song she introduced as being an appropriate time to play an inappropriate song. Its subject matter was a substance not unknown to Willie Nelson she noted with a laugh. Through there was an amount of self-deprecating comments and moments of her own life shared with the audience who responded warmly to both singer and band. The title song of her most recent album Faded Gloryville was prefaced by some background to the idea behind the song. While watching Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart and particularly the scene where he is playing in a bowling alley but has to leave the stage to “toss his cookies” outside gave her a moment to consider if this was to be her future and inspiration for the song. 

As well as singing (and dancing) Ortega also strapped on her Gibson several times and proved to be an adept rhythm player. She is not to be underestimated either as a songwriter with many of her songs serving as insightful glimpses into her own life and of those around her. There are a number of classic “country” style themes throughout her writing that may be overlooked in the sheer assault of the live performance. Her music may be hard to categorise in the strictest sense but the end result is some potent roots music that was much appreciated and warmed the hearts of many on this cold Dublin evening.

Review by Stephen Rapid   Photography by Ronnie Norton