Review by Tony Rouce – Hannah Hu @ Acklam Village Market 22 May 2021
It’s nice to be in at the start of a major talent’s solo career, and nicer still to be able to be among the first to tell the world about greatness in the making. At the end of 2021 I sat, socially distanced and spellbound, in a South West London pub watching a compelling new talent whose music affected me immediately and deeply, and who I couldn’t wait to wholeheartedly recommend to anyone and everyone who would listen…
Bradford-born, London based Hannah Marsden (as she was then) is now Hannah Hu (pronounced Hugh, rather than Who) but that’s the only thing about her that has changed since I was knocked sideways by her short set at the Windmill last December – one that I wrote up for LOUD WOMEN. Not that it was in any way possible to tell from the quiet confidence she exuded in that set, but it turns out that those of us who were there were witnessing Hannah’s first performance as a solo artist – which of course means that LW covered Hannah in her own right before anyone else!
Hannah has a rare knack of making you feel like she’s singing only to you, and for you. Petite she may be, but she projects both her irrefutable physical presence and that of her songs on a big scale, while retaining such an intimacy that even a performance in a sizeable space like West London’s Acklam Village Market feels like a one-to-one bonding between singer and listener. There may have been just two people on the big stage, the other being Hannah’s regular collaborator and accompanist Toby Andersen – but between them they filled every part of it, and every corner of the room, with wonderful music.
And what of that wonderful music? I hear you ask. Well, I previously described Hannah’s material as ‘beguiling and ethereal’ and I see no reason to deviate from that 5 months later. Songs like ‘Stargazer’ and ‘Secrets’ envelop you with their musical embrace, so subtly that you will hardly notice how quickly and deeply you are falling in love with them. They come to you via a voice that is by turns light and gentle (think Kate Bush or Pat Benatar in their upper ranges) or powerful and resonant (Donna Summer in her natural voice) yet still totally unique. While Hannah’s material seldom gets faster than midtempo, it doesn’t need to. It’s something that will stay with you long after her show is over, and you’re playing it back in your mind on your way home…
Hannah played two 35-minute sets at Acklam. Sadly a family commitment meant I could only stick around for the first one, but the 6 or 7 songs Hannah (and Toby!) performed reaffirmed (as if I had any doubts) that this friendly, lovely Yorkshirewoman has the potential to quickly fill considerably larger venues than any she has played thus far as a solo act, and even those she has played in a previous life as a backing vocalist for Primal Scream. Hers is a rare talent, for sure and one that many others will be singing the praises of once she is able to forge ahead with a consistent run of gigs.
She finished with the glorious swirly, hypnotic soundscape of ‘Prisoner Of Love’, which will be the lead track of her first solo EP later in 2021. It’s not the old Ink Spots 1930s standard but it shares a sense of abiding melancholy with that beautiful, much older song and as a ‘preview of forthcoming attractions’ it serves notice to the world that Hannah Hu is truly going to be a force to be reckoned with. My advice to you would be to catch her while she’s still ‘Hannah Who?’ rather than a well-known quantity…and remember where you read about her first!
Surprisingly Hannah has no full length YouTube clips as yet, nor a Bandcamp page. But she IS playing Hackney’s Moth Club on September 2nd as support to the International Teachers Of Pop, and hopefully there will be other shows between now and then or shortly thereafter.