Wednesday, 7 March 2018

GIG REVIEW: Jade Bird - Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Tuesday 6th March 2018

From Stagecoach and Bonnaroo in the west to Latitude and Green Man in the east, festival goers spanning the continents this summer are going to get their heads turned when Jade Bird takes to the stage. Green lights are flashing, and it is all systems go for a young English singer-songwriter equipped to escalate her career very quickly. Populist platforms via the BBC and a signing to influential US operation Glassnote are proving useful boosts ensuring that this raw talent will not be denied an opportunity. Putting hyperbole aside for a moment, playing the small room in the Hare and Hounds to a listening audience is not a bad place to keep in touch with your metaphorical roots.

This Birmingham show saw Jade in solo mode though in tandem with a travelling piano and a trusted acoustic guitar. It is forming part of a wider UK tour that appears to be a prelude to a host of coast-to-coast dates in the States, many opening for Colter Wall. Extended sets may be at a premium for now, so the 50 minutes she played this evening is likely to be the current optimum, though every indication is that recorded material will eventually flow very freely. To date there is just the 5-track EP SOMETHING AMERICAN and a brand new single titled ‘Lottery’ to purchase, but this is not likely to be the case too much longer.

The initial impression of seeing Jade on stage is the sheer effervescent aura that pours from her persona even before a note or chord is struck. Eventually, the vocals and song delivery come to the fore, but the underpinning traits take root. The tempos of the tunes are evolving into two camps with the vocal range being aligned likewise. On the greater upbeat material, the vocals gets stretched a little, a trait that works better in a live environment than on the small recorded sample to date. However, Jade excels best when she tones it down to sink heavily into sad song mode and blend in all the elements of a pensive singer-songwriter. The released ‘What Am I Here For’ and the video-available session piece ‘If I Die’ were the pick of the songs delivered in the latter style and ascended to the highlights of the gig.

Associating Jade Bird with other artists and attaching labels is likely to be a contentious and subsequent futile task. While outlets like Rolling Stone have banded around the country and Americana terms in their ‘ones to watch’ series, these barely break the surface. There is an undeniable acoustic folk pop streak to her work that all goes into the mix of making influential operations take note. For me, similarities to American artist Lissie can be drawn in terms of style, while a useful quip on the evening suggested she might appeal to fans of Jake Bugg. On certainty is that she is starting to bridge the generations in her fan base.

To add to the diversity element, the two cover moments on the night were a version of Kate Bush’s ‘Running up that Hill’ played on the piano and a Johnny Cash medley/mash to close. Sorry, but the concept of the latter is never going to work here, despite ‘Cocaine Blues’, ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ and ‘Ring of Fire’ being great songs. If you like this sort of interpretation fine, otherwise it is best to reflect on what Jade does best.

This was reflected ably in ‘Something American’ and, more pertinently, ‘Cathedral’ from the EP; a new song introduced as ‘Good At It’ and a spritely number towards the end of the set titled ‘Uh-Huh’ . Despite it being already intimated that recorded material is limited, there is an abundance of excellently produced session videos of many unrecorded tracks online, frequently the product of the promotion drive she is being guided to in America.

For this tour, fellow young English singer-songwriter Jack Vallier is opening the shows and playing mainly songs from his debut EP REBEKAH. Switching between electric and acoustic, he kept the sound in mellow low- key mode, whilst showing a degree of promise and assuredness to ensure his career proceeds on an upward trajectory.

Jade Bird definitely strikes more than the proverbial chord with her music and oozes shed loads of relevance. This is one artist exposing a natural talent to make music, perform and ultimately entertain. Time will dictate the success of the tastemakers, and in turn impact upon the level of exposure. For those with an ear to sifting out the talent pool of artists edging in a roots direction, checking out this artist may prove a worthwhile activity.

Thanks to Paul Groves for the image.

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