Live Review: Ailbhe Reddy - The Islington, London 04/04/2019
Turning up to The Islington later than I expected to, I missed the start of Máni Orrason’s set, but I did walk in to a very hushed and attentive crowd. With his distinctive style and quirky vintage take on indie pop, Máni has a magnetising presence about him. Máni held the crowd’s respect with his peculiar charm and run of dreamy and melancholic songs, seeing ‘You’re Acting Like A Fool’ in particular compelling sad swaying from the audience. Tracks were broken up by humble addresses of gratitude to the receptive audience and post-set chatter among the crowd painted Máni in a very favourable light.
For those who have never been before, The Islington is a very intimate space and this can be unnerving for performers at the best of times, who are playing a set list that fans are familiar with. Ailbhe Reddy (pronounced Alva) bravely took the opportunity to tease material from her upcoming debut album, playing some brand new songs, as well as some older EP tracks that have made the cut for her debut.
Ailbhe is the type of performer who doesn’t take herself too seriously and immediately engages with her audience. Crowd interaction is an essential part of her show and she spent the evening intelligently injecting her sharp wit, self deprecating humour and some light-hearted silliness into her performance which was as well received by her audience as the songs she played.
Playing her first three songs solo, Ailbhe opened introspectively with new song, ‘Selfish’ allowing her listener to connect with the familiarity of the honest and emotive roots of her songwriting . This vulnerability immediately captivated Ailbhe’s audience who revered her with a stillness that I haven’t seen in a venue for quite some time. Next up was ‘Never Loved’ from Ailbhe’s 2017 EP ‘Attach To Memory’ which sounded great despite Ailbhe comically confiding she had played it in the wrong key. ‘Bookshop’ followed and I can confidently say it is my new favourite song from the upcoming album - just beautiful through and through.
Soon joined by Stuart on drums and Donal on bass guitar, the evening took on a more upbeat atmosphere as the trio plunged into ‘Flesh & Blood’ showing off a nice chemistry and a tight sound. A quick break for some guitar tuning ensued where Ailbhe joked, “this isn’t a song'“ then showed off some “sick riffs” completely out of tune, before diving into new tune , ‘True Romance’.
’Distrust’ got a huge cheer from the crowd being Ailbhe’s most popular song to date, then new song ‘Walk Away’ was pitched to the crowd with “hug the person next to you, even if you don’t know them”, met with laughter from the audience. ‘Failing’ was up next, channeling a deceivingly upbeat sound that Ailbhe joked her secret was to play sad songs in a major key to make them sound happy and this shift of mood definitely translated well with the crowd.
‘See ya lookin happy’ was executed aggressively and energetically adding an exciting buzz to the room and seeing the trio pull no punches, before kicking things back to familiar jovial territory with ‘The Tube’ and toe tapper, ‘Loyal’ followed. The trio rounded off the set with ‘Personal History’ which opened intimately and mellow before switching into a cathartic, rocky, roar of sound.
As the crowd shouted “one more song” and also “one more joke” Ailbhe decided to leave the song choice in the fate of the audience. When someone shouted ‘Fingertips’ Ailbhe accidentally took on the form of a politician dealing with Brexit and said she couldn’t do that one, then picked a song herself asking if everyone was ok with ‘Coffee’ which the audience democratically agreed was a good choice indeed!
Despite some self-confessed nerves, Ailbhe really had nothing to worry about. Playing new songs was a risk but every song went down incredibly well, showing that Ailbhe’s fans have a lot of trust and admiration for her artistry. The audience swayed and toe tapped along to the upbeat tracks and appreciated the more tender numbers, holding hands with their partners or who knows, maybe even a stranger after Ailbhe’s previous recommendation for how to enjoy her songs. With the news that Ailbhe’s debut “alvum” (her words, not mine) due for release in 2020, and no more London shows for a while, Ailbhe can confidently continue to take her new setlist and charismatic sense of humour to new locations, secure in the knowledge that this is an album people really do want to hear.
Words of Karla Harris