There’s something about London which inspires music, it’s a city where you can make it on your own, find your muse or spearhead a career. Which is why, out of everywhere she’s travelled, Wallis Bird settled here. She was born in Ireland, empowered in Germany, and has toured the world, yet it was Brixton which was to give Wallis Bird her voice, and as tonight’s Dingwalls gig shows, we’re lucky to have her outsider transatlantic folk rock.
Bird feels the urge to travel constantly, but likes to bring her international experiences into a domestic setting. By making it London, she’s assured a homecoming gig feel to her first home show in 18 months, and in support of her spectacular third self-titled LP. She even declares to the audience: “I moved to this city because it’s meant to be the epicentre of everything with so many great musicians” adding, “This is the best f**ing gig ever”.
Admittedly though, it’s not exactly the biggest crowd Dingwalls has ever seen. The handy tellys they have behind the pillars aren’t needed, and we can see fine. But Bird has enough energy to fill the venue three fold, and whether ranting like a scattergun or tearing across the stage with a guitar before taking over the drums, her showmanship is radiant.
On stage she’s like a terrier on Hampstead Heath with a stick and some trees to sniff; excitable, erratic and comfortingly ramshackle. She seems at her most comfortable when stripped back, with Dress My Skin And Become What I’m Supposed To Be sounding raw, backed with closing-time vocals. Yet this self-familiarity is her weakness, something she should have grown out of by now. The gentle Feathered Pocket, doesn’t do Bird justice and comes across like any other mellow jazz rock croon.
Where Bird excels is with her rabble-rousing transatlantic anthems. I Am So Tired Of That Line, is a lively Jack Johnson goes Tori Amos pop classic, which would be yelled from on top of a big yellow taxi. The lyrics entail American ideologies of jumping on trains and freedom that epitomise Birds restless nature. Encore is also one of those songs where she owns the venue, with her soaring Amy Grantesque voice and staggeringly good backing band.
Wallis Bird is at her best when shouting from the rooftops. She needs to be outside preaching to a legion of fans. Her voice is as quirkily strong as Fiona Apple’s, and will certainly be appealing to the same kind of alt-MOR listener. She’s an untamed talent who needs a spot of refinement, but without diluting what is mesmerising and refreshing voice.
Wallis Bird plays St Pancras Old Church 16 May, tickets available from 13 April through Seetickets