LIVE REVIEW + PHOTOS: Hannah Wicklund in Boston, MA (03.01.24)

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LIVE REVIEW + PHOTOS: Hannah Wicklund in Boston, MA (03.01.24)

Blues-rock powerhouse Hannah Wicklund has evolved greatly over the near 20 years since she first stepped on stage. At only twenty six, the artist is a veteran of the road and a master of song, having begun her first band at the ripe age of eight years old. Now, she returns to those formative years of growing up in Hilton Head, SC and the heartaches and triumphs that led her to who she is now on her highly-praised new album, The Prize.

Wicklund brought her “Hell in the Hallway” tour to Boston’s Brighton Music Hall this Friday, March 1, with an electrifying set that showcased her sheer talent. Gracing the stage in a billowing gown and a tiara to match, the artist was a vision of soft femininity against her high-powered sound.

Opening her set with the effective “Hell in the Hallway,” which also opens her latest LP, Wicklund dazzled with its intricate styling that instantly built up a transformative sonic playground. With fiery vocals that effortlessly belted each lyric, the sheer talent that bellowed from the artist proved instantly captivating as she transitioned from soulful cadences, to piano ballads, and rock and roll rumblings.

New tracks “Hide and Seek” and “Witness” equally soared with Wicklund’s gumption and her band’s collective power. Well-built orchestrations, often flowing in and out of musical wanderings, lead to many jam sessions that elongated tracks in delightful ways.

Taking moments between songs to provide often-humorous back stories of their origins, the most atypical of all was the makings of “Lost Love.” Written aboard a wrestling cruise ship, she was tasked, along with other musicians in the camp, to create their art while accompanied by a ship full of muscles. “I was playing a musical festival aboard a cruise ship called The Rock Boat,” she reflected. “They had this really cool project they would do every year where they would gather a handful of the songwriters from different groups and we would all go onboard and write and record a record in three days on a cruise ship. This was the first year they happened to do it on board a non-music cruise, though. It was quite the experience. We were essentially on this secret mission project. It was a bunch of wrestlers, ya know, so normally the green room where you eat all your meals and hang out and stuff, but it was a room full of wrestlers. So naturally, I befriended them. On the last night of the cruise we did a listening party and it was just a bunch of us scrawny musicians in this room, except I had invited a couple of my new friends. So I’ll never forget the first time that I heard this song, I was sandwiched between three very large wrestlers.”

Trading electric guitar— the bright pink model gifted to her from boyfriend and collaborator Sam Kiszka after the album’s completion— to a small mandolin and keyboard, Wicklund’s interchangeable instruments exemplified her ambition.

The spell-binding number “Shadow Boxes and Porcelain Faces,” an ode to ignoring online naysayers, transformed from an acoustic ballad into a beautiful piece that swayed in and out of ferocity. While remaining on the stage solo, Wicklund performed a number of piano ballads that calmed the set midway, yet drenched the room in a stark silence that amplified the roar of her vocals.

“This new record of mine, The Prize, it means the absolute world to me,” she stated. “These songs have healed more than I could ever probably truly recognize. I’ve been at this thing a long time. I started my band when I was eight years old. … When I picked up the guitar and when I started the band and started playing rock and roll, slowly my femininity kind of disappeared and kind of got chipped away at. I saw myself really having to step into my masculine when I entered a room in order to be respected. I think it’s a really beautiful thing to be able to embody both, but I am very grateful to have come full circle and this record basically helped me find my womanhood… So in honor of the young girl in me that got me here, here’s the title track off of my new record.”

Belting out the lyrics to “The Prize,” emotion grabbed the singer’s voice and she concluded the song with admission that it was the closest she has ever came to crying during its performance. On the opposite end of the spectrum, when Wicklund rocks, she rocks. The driving chords of “Sun to Sun” soared higher and higher as her octave reached a note of searing passion and her band exploded into equal fervor.

Utilizing a talk box and other pedals for psychedelic effects, hit “Mama Said” off 2018’s breakout record “Hannah Wicklund and the Step-in Stones” provided another spirited number that electrified fans of both Hannah’s older work and her newer sound. In parallel, the bluesy rollickings of “Can’t Get Enough” and “Intervention” proved just as captivating live. Though constrained by the size of the venue’s stage, Wicklund and company performed with an intensity that rivaled the room.

The night’s true standouts were saved for her two encore tracks. Long-standing fan favorite “Strawberry Moon,” a song in which Wicklund ultimately named her own label after, remains an absolute staple in her live set. Jamming out with reckless abandon, the track left ample room to explore riffs and rhythms to rock out. With an explosion of sound that built up into a satisfactory crescendo, the group’s transition into hit “Bomb Through The Breeze” proved even more exemplary.

The night was fueled by Wicklund’s fierce vocal capacity and impressive guitar skills, all encompassing her catalogue’s dynamic sound. On her own journey through the twisting hallways of life and the music industry, The Prize and its accompany tour prove that Wicklund is courageous enough to do it her own way. Sparkling gown, tiara, Anderson electric guitar and all.

Listen to Hannah Wicklund’s new album The Prize – HERE.

Photos – Hannah Wicklund at Brighton Music Hall in Boston, MA on March 1st, all photos by John Hutchings:

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