Floating and fragile, that’s how I would describe Birdy as she enters the room at the Roundhouse in Camden. Not the biggest audience she has played in front of, but here in her home capital she is clearly nervous with excitement, equalled by the front row who have queued up outside in the rain to get a front patch of the rail to cling to for the next hour and a half. They know, and I know that this young girl, who is still a teenager (for a week at least), is part of the future for British female singer songwriters. A situation that is incredibly healthy, despite what the Brits 16 would have you think with their nominations of deceased popstars and band lead vocalists this year.
Wearing a thin bright red kimono style long jacket, with black top and shorts, which exposed an inordinate amount of leg to the front 200 fans, Birdy takes to the grand piano in the centre of the stage and opens with ‘Growing Pains’. This is the opening track of her 3rd album, and whilst some would find the recording of the third difficult, this hasn’t been a problem for Birdy, and in fact she is starting to show some real self-belief, it’s a significant progression from her 1st covers album, with some much more up-tempo stuff included.
There is little else going on here though, particularly in the early part of the set, its basically Birdy and her Grand Piano - plus a very competent tight backing band, all wearing black. A bland curtain backdrop and some cinema projector lights to illuminate key spots. This feels like a stripped back version of what could perhaps have been much more colourful and dramatic. ‘People help the People’ a Cherry Ghost cover expertly despatched, followed by ‘Hear You Calling’ - another new track from the Beautiful Lies album. In fact, it isn’t until halfway through the set that she talks to her audience, explaining that the next track is her favourite from the 1st album, a cover of the XX ‘Shelter’. Is it nerves? Or just her way, but we are wanting to hear a little more from her, more than just the live version of album tracks.
The problem with that lack of interaction from stage to audience is that the incessant chatter from the sides of the room rises above those quieter, more poignant songs, a distraction to everyone and causing someone to start a Shhhhhh…. campaign. It’s a shame but not uncommon for the quieter acts.
Birdy's vocals, when they can be heard clearly, are of pure, striking tone and of ethereal quality. Stunning beyond her years and flawless in delivery, the album tracks and singles are performed effortlessly by this songbird. ‘Beautiful Lies’ is an untainted delight of voice and piano, the title track of the new album and played just a few songs before the killer 1-2 of ‘Wings’ and ‘Keeping Your Head Up’. Those 2 tracks being the ones that the majority of the chatterers are waiting for, raising their mobile phones high in the air.
‘Keeping Your Head Up’ is her most danceable song in the set, saved for the end, and it’s the one track where she really shows that potential to stretch out to claim some of the Florence Welch territory.
Returning to the stage to play ‘Unbroken’ which she dedicates to her sister, we then have a duet with Dan Owen, ‘Let it all Go’ is a great song and Dan Owen pulls off the deep Rhodes vocal parts really well. The encore is topped with her Bon Iver ‘Skinny Love’ cover, just Birdy and her piano, sublime.
She is a prime example of some great British talent out there, well worth seeing again and having just announced some more UK dates for November 2016, you have that chance…bring your friends…and some tape for their mouths!