Lisa Hannigan | photo by Joe Del Tufo |

It’s been an interesting journey for Lisa Hannigan. Known first 15 years ago as the backing vocalist whose soaring duets helped launch Damien Rice to fame, she’s since outpaced him with three solo releases. I’d always considered her work with Rice her strongest and, though each solo release would have a gem or two, I typically found her voice to be stronger than her songwriting. But I had never seen her live.

Her recent tour concluded in Philadelphia, something she mentioned being really grateful for, as the city has been a great beacon of listening for her over the years. And a very full Underground Arts transformed into a listening room. Pulling mainly from her most recent and best work, At Swim, Hannigan wove a setlist that served to feature the band as much as her soaring, elemental vocals.

There are themes that connect Hannigan’s work lyrically. The sea, in particular and its relationship to loss. Nature, and it cycles. A brief look into the titles of her songs along starts to paint a tapestry to a body of work that is larger than songs or even individual albums. The live show helped lay this out. “We,” “The Drowned,” “Lo” and “Knots” stood out during the set, shimmering and layered re-orchestrations of the songs that work remarkably well with this impressive band she’s brought along.

Hannigan’s guitarist Heather Woods Broderick opened with a plaintive set of cleverly arranged ballads.

O Sleep
Prayer For the Dying
Little Bird
Funeral Suit
We, The Drowned
A Sail