Following the kick off of her 12-date UK headline tour in London Shepherds Bush Empire, Freya Ridings filled Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms to the brim, bringing soul, class and flawless vocals to a very receptive crowd. She seemed genuinely overwhelmed by the number of people that showed up on a Friday night to the sold out gig but, from her performance, there was no reason for her to be surprised.
We arrived at Rescue Rooms during support act Declan J Donovan’s set and immediately appreciated the intimate venue setting, his powerful voice and impressive vocal range attracting the majority of the crowd’s attention for so early on in the night. His performance of his single ‘Fallen So Young’, written for his brother’s wedding, was heartfelt and quickly brought out my pathetic, soft side whilst we waited at the bar. Ending his set with ‘Pieces’ he brought the atmosphere of the cramped room into Freya Ridings’ realm of a lyrically taut and emotionally engaging performance, preparing the crowd for her arrival.
“Freya Ridings has sold out shows across the country and it was clear from her performance at Rescue Rooms as to why”
Now with over a million monthly listeners on Spotify, English singer-songwriter Freya Ridings has sold out shows across the country and it was clear from her performance at Rescue Rooms as to why. Walking on stage in a beautiful white sparkly dress, Ridings was angelic both in her appearance and through her flawless vocal performance. With no words, she went straight into the upbeat ‘Love is Fire’, diving into the song alongside her talented band to create an opening performance that I couldn’t help tapping my foot along to. Having not listened to all of her released music, I was surprised by this energetic start to the show, expecting more of a relaxed and stripped back performance, but it was the combination of the soulful and the upbeat songs that made the show so varied and emphasised her musical abilities alongside the band’s.
“It was hard to look away”
As a songwriter, she takes the dark, deeply-affecting parts of love and life and turns them into relatable but still personal and unique songs. On stage, the emotional connection she has with the lyrics and her own music was obvious: she managed to sit and sing alone with her piano, stand and sing with her guitar or play with the entire band and always fully convey the emotions behind every song, getting lost in each one before breaking out in a wonderful smile to the crowd during their enthusiastic applause. It was hard to look away.
The audience was clearly full of committed fans as they willingly joined in with the clapping and singing along that Ridings encouraged during ‘Castles’ – a definite crowd favourite – and during ‘Holy Water’. This brought the small room together, making the number of people seem even greater and changing the atmosphere from that of an intimate solo performance into that of an involved, vivacious sing along.
Despite the contagious energy of the bigger, full-band songs, my favourite parts of the gig were when Ridings sang with only a simple piano accompaniment. Her cover of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Maps’ gave me goosebumps due to the airy, soft quality of her voice, and during her encore performance of her most famous single ‘Lost Without You’, which now has over 16 million streams, I felt a little teary as her vibrato-rich voice nailed each note exuding both intense feeling and power. She moved effortlessly between quiet, toned down singing and her belting out of the notes, showing the whole range of her capabilities and the ways she can deliver raw emotion so effectively.
“Left the room buzzing with well-deserved cheers and applause”
With the most majestic hair flick, she ended her set with ‘Ultraviolet’, the whole band showcasing their love of performing and their musical talent, and left the room buzzing with well-deserved cheers and applause. Although she shares similarities with artists such as Birdy and Billie Marten, the variety of her performance and her developed, mature sound, which can only be fully appreciated by seeing her live, sets her apart from these artists. Freya Ridings’ performance was, at times, spine-tingling and, at others, energising and she created a balanced mix of the two which led to a wonderful evening of emotion and musical talent.
Featured image courtesy of Katie Moncur.