Photo Credit: Justin Goff/GoffPhotos.com
On the 4th November 2016, Birdy (full name Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer van den Bogaerde – no wonder she opts for something a little snappier) filled the O2 Academy in Bristol with young and old alike, and delivered just about everything you’d expect from a concert of hers. Granted, although it was great news for Birdy, the impressive turn out did mean that it was difficult to get a good view of what was actually happening on stage. Luckily the true joy of Birdy as an artist is her beautifully melodic voice, and despite not being able to catch a glimpse of the stage until halfway through the gig, we found ourselves enjoying the opportunity to listen to her live vocals anyway. And after we’d shuffled our way endlessly around the venue, a view of the beautifully modest staging simply added to the magic of the gig.
Before Birdy graced the stage, support artist Dan Owen made the most of a great opportunity by truly giving the audience something to listen to. At many gigs it’s not unusual for the support act’s music to be mixed with chatter from the crowd or murmurings of impatient fans waiting to see the main artist. However, on this occasion, it was as though Owen was the headline act for a few songs as his beguiling Made To Love You captured the crowd’s imagination and almost stunned them into silence. There wasn’t a voice to be heard but his echoing around the arena. He rounded up his set with something a little different; a version of an old American blues song called Little Red Rooster, first recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in the early 1960s and later popularised by artists such as The Rolling Stones and The Doors. Dan whipped the audience up into a frenzy as he played the harmonica, drums, and guitar simultaneously. At times he seemed a crazed man as he yelled the chorus out to the crowd whilst slamming his feet down on the drums, and as he said himself before the final song: “I’ll say a huge thank you now as after this I don’t think I’ll be able to speak!” His job as a warm-up act was certainly fulfilled, and it’s well worth checking out his music.
From beginning to end, Birdy’s vocal performance was essentially flawless; a dreamy journey through her newest album Beautiful Lies, peppered with favourites from Fire Within such as Words As Weapons and Wings, and also some great covers including The Naked And Famous’ Young Blood. Previously having been compared to a young Kate Bush, Birdy brought this comparison to life with a truly inspired mash-up of her own Silhouette and Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, which upped the tempo of the gig for a moment and gave the audience something to clap and bob along to. While the album sees similar songs blend into one another at times, making them difficult to distinguish from memory, the slightly more up tempo songs such as Wild Horses and Hear You Calling were smartly set listed between the slower, softer melodies, recapturing any potentially drifting attentions.
Of course, a Birdy performance wouldn’t be complete without a rendition of the song which threw her into the spotlight as a 14 year old, and so at the opening chords of her cover of Bon Iver’s Skinny Love, the crowd once again fell into silence and soaked up her beautiful voice before joining in, echoing the lyrics back to her and turning into a massive backing choir for the duration of the song. Returning shortly after this to perform her encore, Birdy was joined by support act Dan Owen to give a stunning performance of Let It All Go, originally sung as a duet with fellow artist Rhodes. It was a true delight, and as their two voices blended faultlessly with one another, the Academy was filled with a sense of awe at the simple beauty of the song. Rounding off the night with the ever popular Keeping Your Head Up, Birdy’s uplifting lyrics provided a feel good conclusion to the gig; and as she took her final bow with her band, it was evident to us that Birdy, as a talented and admirable singer-songwriter, deserves every opportunity which comes her way in the future.