Sadie and the Hotheads New Town Theatre

We’re not going to get through the review without mentioning it, so let’s get it out of the way now: the driving force in this band is Elizabeth McGovern, and most people in the UK know her best as the Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey. Which would account for the fact that the majority of tonight’s audience looks like they’re out at a time when they would normally have retired for the night (the show starts at 23:45).

As an actress, she’s been nominated for an Oscar for her role in Ragtime and played Robert De Niro’s love interest in Once Upon a Time in America before marrying Simon Curtis and settling in London. As a singer and songwriter, she chose to pay her dues on the Open Mic circuit before forming a band, recording an album and heading out on tour.

The songs are very much her own, and – presumably – reflect her own quirky personality, which is why it was a great shame that the sound rendered her lyrics inaudible. She does not have the strongest of voices, her guitar playing is somewhat tentative and on occasion her timing wavers, but with an experienced 5 piece band and an impressive backing singer behind her, the gig should still have been a success.

But mostly, the words were lost, and anyone unfamiliar with the songs – and to judge from the puzzled expressions in the audience (“did she say Cow Song?”) that was the majority of them – would have been at a loss to understand what they were all about. A great pity, and an opportunity wasted. I for one would have loved to have heard the lyrics to the jazzy Mr Debt Collector; love songs to bailiffs are thin on the ground round here.

McGovern is obviously serious about this new career, but for her to be taken seriously as a songwriter, the songs need an environment in which to flourish. And this wasn’t it. I hope she is better served by the sound system for the rest of her run.

Jim Welsh