In September we questioned if maybe Lisa Mitchell was mysophobic, with her song Neopolitan Dreams featuring on a well known washing product advert and her new single being called Coin Laundry. We may have been somewhat joking, but now we’re thinking this is serious. On arrival at The Cellars in Portsmouth, a makeshift washing line has been strung up in the corner. Luckily it is only to display merchandise for sale and not because Lisa has been on a crazed soap and suds frenzy.
It’s a strange gig for Mitchell. In Australia she may have had a top ten album, but in the UK she is virtually unknown. That said the pub venue is sold out, although there seems to be no particular buzz in the room, the applause being strangely reserved. In fact when Mitchell starts to play a significant number of people appear completely indifferent to the fact she is on stage and continue chatting despite the signs at the bar asking for quiet. In spite of her young age Mitchell appears outwardly unaffected, casting out a set of quirky acoustic pop tunes such as the whimsical Coin Laundry, the gentle intimate confessional Love Letter and a solo acoustic cover version of Dire Straits Romeo and Juliet to draw punters in. Unfortunately her Lenka like soft slightly kooky girlish vocal is not always commanding over the talking punters, who don’t seem to care for the fact that they are in a live music venue. As a result the show lacks substance. If only Lisa wasn’t the polite professional announcing that “Because you’re all so nice, I’m going to play you a love song. It’s just us,” and instead had said “If you’re not going to listen can you please leave,” the show may have been more compelling. By the time she finishes her set the expected applause for an encore only lasts as long as it takes for her to exit the stage. Her return a minute or so later feels rather forced and subdued.
Lisa Mitchell is certainly talented and has some sensitive almost daintily sweet acoustic pop songs, but with an audience who seemed somewhat ambivalent to her presence it probably wasn’t her best day.