You can tell how well received a song is when the crowd starts whipping out their phones. Yes, there are punters who choose to unplug at a live show, then there are others who live life through their phone screens — not that it's necessarily a bad thing. After all, they'll get to relive them through their phones, while the rest of us only have our memories to rely on. Last night, memory keepers both organic and digital had their fill of Birdy's hymns of sorrow and hope.
Backed by her five-man band (which consisted of an Alexa Chung and Elena Tonro lookalike, Charlotte), the 20-year-old was in Singapore for her final stop in the Asian leg of the Beautiful Lies tour. Starting the 21-song set with Growing Pains from behind her stage piano, the relatively small convention hall perked up with the track's Memoirs of a Geisha-influenced sonic trimmings. Birdy's known to be quite shy, and it shows — it took nine songs in with Words As Weapons, an upbeat guitar-led track for her to stand up. You could finally see all of her waif-like beauty in the light — strong gazed when singing and bashful in between songs.
Known the world over for her cover of Bon Iver's Skinny Love, the Brit included tracks from her debut cover album, Birdy (2011). Cherry Ghost's People Help The People and The National's Terrible Love were instant crowd favourites (again, you could tell from the number of mobiles held in the air), while The Naked and Famous' Young Blood split the audience, who consisted largely of fans in their early to mid-20s (the audience who, when the Bee Gees' Stayin' Alive came on during the pre-show warm-up, didn't mouth the lyrics nor sing along). Save Yourself, off her Beautiful Lies record showed the singer's incredible range live as she wailed in a marvelous showcase of falsetto.
Contrary to popular belief, not all of Beautiful Lies is as sorrowful as one would expect — Keep Your Head Up and Unbroken reverberated glimmers of hope throughout the hall, notably with the latter's flute-fuelled haunting instrumentation. Keep Your Head Up also saw Birdy's return to the front of the stage, fluttering her ruffled sleeves as her arms swayed in a trance. Goosebumps were raised all over as the hall went quiet again when she performed Winter solo, crooning, "This is the reason I let you go/I will be honest and you should know/through all that you promise, I can see/None of your dreams ever have time for me".
Ending the night with Skinny Love, Birdy resurrects the hope that even in a social landscape driven by stats-crazy millennials afraid to unplug, there still lies a big voice that connects people who aren't paying attention. And she's singing her heart out.
Birdy performed at the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre on 2 August. Special thanks to The Gathering. For more concert reviews, click here.