Opening for Birdy at the Barbican was singer-songwriter Dan Owen, whose cheeky demeanour and rich voice kicked off the evening on a strong note. Alone on stage, his acoustic sound has a soulful country twist, with the honey rich depth of George Era and the foot-tapping soul of Frank Turner. Building through catchy tunes and personal ballads, he crescendos his set by bring out a harmonica and wowing the crowd with an irresistible finale.
When the lights finally drop, Birdy appears on stage dressed in a striking red kimono and framed by the slowly swaying strands of gossamer cloth that adorned the stage. Addressing the crowd, her presence is polite and modest, a total contrast to the strength and confidence of her voice. Diving straight into songs from her latest album Beautiful Lies, the clarity and power of her vocals is staggering for somebody so young. With a five-piece band accompanying her and a medley of lights silhouetting the stage, the full effect is as enveloping as it is captivating.
Birdy doesn’t delay in returning to the covers that made her famous. Sat alone at her grand piano, the audience were serenaded with perfect renditions of ‘People Help The People’ and ‘Young Blood’. It doesn’t take long, however, for the night to level out. Despite the powerful vocals of ‘Wild Horses’ and the touching subtly of ‘Beautiful Lies’, the performance does lack variety.
And yet, as she moves into her gorgeous ‘Skinny Love’ cover and a held back rendition of ‘Wings’, all is forgotten. The humility of her music is its greatest strength, charming to experience without any pretence or exaggeration. Her ability as a songwriter and a musician feels far beyond her mere twenty years.
As the night welcomes the encore, Dan Owen joins the stage to take over RHODES’ vocals on ‘Let It All Go’, the richness of his voice blending beautifully with Birdy’s soft sound. The night is closed with a crescendo of sound, as Birdy gives all she has to the stirring ‘Keeping Your Head Up’. Beautiful, captivating, simply magical. Birdy may sound modest on her albums, but she has true grace and quality that makes a truly wonderful performer.