Oh, yeah. A sports reference. Such a lad, me.
This is the third time in 12 months that I’ve seen the chirping songstress. The first was at Roundhouse where she played a gorgeous show in the almost birdcage like venue (quite fitting, eh). The second was at Hammersmith Apollo where I felt the production let her down, as she was glorious but the lights shone into the audience throughout, and she seemed to have to strain to be heard over the instruments. A bit like when you’re trying to chat someone up at a club but you’re stood right in front of a speaker.
This show for me was the make or break. I wanted to know if Hammersmith or Roundhouse was the real Birdy. As a fan from the start, I was of course hoping for it to be the latter. And boy, was it!
I excitedly shuffle my feet as the band take to stage. If anything for the symphony of strings that lurk in a darkened corner. For me, strings are like modern art; when done well, it’s a masterpiece, when done badly, it’s a shit-show. To my delight, this string accompaniment would have Sotheby’s drooling.
As Birdy takes the stage in a vibrant green gown, the show opens with Growing Pains. The song’s Far East inspired intro beautifully complimenting the almost coromandel backdrop and floral-decorated piano. With little chatter it’s followed by People Help the People, the first of what will be many covers. To be frank, though, I believe that all of her covers are improvements on their original forms. She’s like a plastic surgeon for songs. I imagine Donatella Versace already has her lined up to play at her funeral.
One of her more famous covers, Young Blood, is played about a quarter into the set and almost everyone is singing along. I say “almost” everyone due to the middle aged banshee to my right who seemed to have bought a ticket to be able to have a natter to her mate in a different setting to the singles bar they must normally go to. Wild Horses is immediately after which, if you’re a music lover, you’ll know it as being from Birdy’s most recent album Beautiful Lies. If you hate music and all that it stands for, you’ll know the song from the opening sponsorship advert for the X Factor.
Not About Angels is next and really surprises me, as she didn’t play it the previous times I’ve seen her. She wrote it for The Fault In Our Stars movie, adapted from the novel by John Green. It’s a delicate track which compliments the movie wonderfully. And the aforementioned strings absolutely shine through on stage for this song. More soundtracks in the future, please!
At this point I have to hold my hands up and say that I thought Terrible Love was a Birdy original. It was only when she played it this time and my boyfriend leant in and said, “Oh, I didn’t know she covered The National” that my ignorance was broken. Still, after now listening to the original, I have to admit that the version I heard at Somerset House runs away with it. But putting all these covers together and realising that Birdy was 15 when she did most of them on her debut album makes you think; God, I wish I was that cool when I was that old. At that age I was playing online war games and only washing the “important” bits in the shower.
What happened next has to be my favourite moment of any gig this year (and I go to a lot of them). What began as Birdy gently tinkering on the piano for Silhouette turned into a surprise cover of Running Up That Hill by the one and only Kate Bush. The moment that drum intro started, everyone with an ear for the greats just looked at each other and absolutely lost their shit. Well, as much as a Somerset House crowd for Birdy can. I certainly saw some prosecco fall from a-gasped mouths.
After such a barrage of energy, the show slows down for a moment (like when you start to lose your breath mid-shag). Beautiful Lies is followed by Take My Heart and turns the crowd from a dance to a sway as the sun finally sets behind the courtyard. The venue’s real beauty is bluntly obvious at night when light streams through the windows into the cobbles and bathes the stone in yellow light. Not that it’s hideous in the daytime, of course! I’m not talking like when the lights turn on in a club at closing and you realise you’ve been dancing with someone who’s seen too many winters and too few hot showers.
Wings closes the evening with bright lights, and full orchestral instrumental. You can even hear people singing their hearts out in our tweets from the evening. (Okay, one of those people may have been me).
Birdy has gone from strength to strength in her career. Every album reveals more about her, and showcases her maturing songwriting and vocals. Something quite special is that she has maintained her charm and sweet nature throughout, and hasn’t been moulded or changed by record deals or celebrity. I for one can’t wait to see what she does next.