Summer Series @ Somerset House: Birdy – 12 July 17

Posted by Zyllah Moranne-Brown on Wednesday Jul 12, 2017 Under Folk, Indie, Pop, Rock

Review by Chloe Gynne with photography by Marianne Brits-Strodl.

Walking onto Somerset House‘s stage in vivid, show stopping green, Birdy looks shy, and even a little uncomfortable. The 21 year-old released her debut at the tender age of 15, and while she has shed her sparse covers for more powerful pop ballads, her youthful awkwardness remains.

Birdy - Summer Series _ Somerset House_12 July 2017-12

Birdy - Summer Series _ Somerset House_12 July 2017-14

She opens, aptly, with ‘Growing Pains’, a glorious orchestra setting the scene, fitting for the venue. She hides behind her piano- fans at stage left are frustrated when they realise they won’t see the singer for much of the set- and silences a chatty crowd, who take in the soft, subtle strength of her voice and the symphony behind her.

Early in the set, she pulls out ‘Young Blood’, her cover of The Naked And The Famous’ song from her debut, which is emboldened by her vocal improvements, and it becomes clear that this crowd is most enamoured with that album; it’s only more evident when she follows it with ‘Wild Horses’, from 2016’s ‘Beautiful Lies’, and the crowd largely talks over it.

Birdy - Summer Series _ Somerset House_12 July 2017-11

Birdy - Summer Series _ Somerset House_12 July 2017-10

It seems the repetition of pleasant-but-not-ground-breaking songs and a voice that tends to stay within one limited pitch wears thin on the crowd after a while; soon, the bar starts filling up again and conversation rules out the set’s quieter moments. Birdy rarely speaks to her crowd- including front rows, who give her their full attention, and cheer her on endlessly- get as much as a smile. As such, the night unfolds without little atmosphere, which it is in desperate need of.

‘Words as Weapons’, though, sees Birdy standing front and centre, plucking the guitar and providing the set with a clear highlight. Its harmonies, delivered by a fantastic group of backing singers, travel across the square, and it comes at a crucial moment: the audience is experiencing something of an energy drop mid-set. ‘Lifted’ continues the new pace, and the song reaches euphoric heights, as fans watch on joyfully.

But, as things look set to improve, Birdy drops the pace once more. By ‘Beautiful Lies’, which feels rushed, and her cover of Rhodes’ ‘Let It All Go’, the crowd are paying so little attention that it takes a few seconds for them to realise the song is over and they should be applauding. Set closer ‘Keeping Your Head Up’ is met with a cheer, perhaps of relief that there is finally an opportunity for a sing and a dance.

Birdy - Summer Series _ Somerset House_12 July 2017-9

Birdy - Summer Series _ Somerset House_12 July 2017-5

The encore gives fans what they came for: Birdy’s cover of ‘Skinny Love’ is as delicate and quiet as it should be, and for the first time all night, the low-volume, high-power of the song works in her favour. Closing with ‘Wings’, she redeems herself of the lull mid-set, and fans leave, not overjoyed, but, at least, satisfied.

Birdy - Summer Series _ Somerset House_12 July 2017-3

Birdy - Summer Series _ Somerset House_12 July 2017-2

It is, perhaps, telling that the most captivating figure on stage ends up being guitarist Charlotte Hatherley- best known for her time in Ash- whose dreamy, soft guitar lines are hypnotic and central to the sound. Our frontwoman, though, makes less of an impact than is necessary of a pop artist in 2017.

Perhaps it’s because we just saw Lorde, a popstar of a similar age, win Glastonbury over with songs from her new, modern- and crucially, cool- album, with a dozen dancers performing artfully in a Perspex box; perhaps it’s because Florence and the Machine, whose music is most aligned with Birdy’s, has a stage presence which involves the audience and is compelling to watch. Tonight, though, Birdy’s stillness, cemented to her piano stool, stuck on her debut album, reflects on her audience, who decide their private conversations are more entertaining than the performance they have come to see.

Still young, she has the chance to improve. Her studio albums improve each time, and she has a knack for writing some beautiful lyrics, which, during private listens are touching and memorable. With a touch more audience interaction and a dose of gumption, Birdy will, in a few years, be able to compete with pop’s bigger names.


Summer Series at Somerset House 2017
This year’s Summer Series at Somerset House presents a world-class line-up in the stunning surroundings of one of London’s most iconic landmarks.

6 July 2017 – Norah Jones + The Candles
7 July 2017 – Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley + David Rogan
8 July 2017 – The Cinematic Orchestra + Moses Sumney
9 July 2017 – Goldfrapp + Sloes
10 July 2017 – Warpaint + Yak
11 July 2017 – The Robert Glasper Experiment + Gabriel Garzon Montano
12 July 2017 – Birdy + Little Hours
13 July 2017 – Foster the People + Klangstof
14 July 2017 – Tom Misch (live) + Very Special Guests + Camody & Andreya Triana
15 July 2017 – Mashrou’ Leila
16 July 2017 – Songhoy Blues + Submotion Orchestra
For further formation visit Summer Series at Somerset House

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