Live Zone

Sigrid / Fred Well, 02 Institute 2, Birmingham, 18th March 2018

 

This young Norwegian superstar-in-waiting gave her sold out Birmingham audience a masterclass in how to be yourself as an artist. And enjoy every last second on that stage while you are at it.

Anyone can sing songs. Not anyone can write them. This towering talent at 21, can sing ‘em and write ‘em, and is the ready-made global artist to go way beyond expectations in her chosen career.

The killer tune, “Don’t Kill My Vibe” – one of the best pop songs of the last decade – was left until the very final song in her 15-track, hour long set. A prefect rendition too. Amazing when you know that was only released in May 2017, but it seems like it has been around much longer. Such a hook. Go on, sing it, whistle it, hum it now, and I am sure everyone can remember it instantly. Yes you, go on then…

But the completely rammed audience in the downstairs room at this popular city centre venue – sister to the nearby and larger 02 Academy – (circa 600 of them tonight), had warmed up their voices for the sing-along to every lyric of Sigrid’s biggest hit to-date, much earlier in the set.

The UK chart hits “Strangers” – which on the day of this gig had spent 10 weeks in the singles chart – dished up as the penultimate cut tonight, and crackers like “Plot Twist” (third in the set), had the crowd animated and in fine voice; prompting broad grins from the young star.

The age range in her crowd was broad, from 14 and 15-year-olds with their big brother or sister, with Mum, with Dad or with both parents, lots of young ladies who seemingly adore Ms Sigrid, and then the more mature of us.

 

There is no one out there quite like Sigrid at this time. She’s part Bjork; the quirky part of her personality, and having sat here for 10 minutes trying to come up with a couple more comparisons, I have failed miserably.

When I first heard Sigrid, I stopped what I was doing and wanted to find out her name and her background. Since then, I have followed her progress with great anticipation, and when I listened to the final batch of artists who were all up for the BBC “Sound Of 2018”, for me; there was no one else could touch her.

Thank goodness the judges agreed and gave her the title in January this year (2108). She has also picked up awards from NME and MTV, and some in her native Norway, and will continue to do so around the world for years to come methinks. Her imminent debut album will be a smash, and my prediction is at least double Platinum in sales in the UK alone, and major success in the States.

Her songwriting art is not to be sniffed at, but for someone of her years it is quite something. The arrangements are sometimes quite technical and finely crafted, and her lyrics make great impact. But above all else, they are all perfect vehicles for her unique vocals.

It is well known what she based “Don’t Kill My Vibe” on; a bunch of old gits who patronised her in a recording or songwriting session, and treated her like a silly young thing who was out of her depth. Hmmmm, wonder where they are now and how many hits they have penned?

 

Sigrid Solbakk Raabe was actually thinking of a career in law, until her parents surprisingly suggested she follow her dream to sing and write songs, or she might well regret it when she was older. She did just that and look what happened. A court room’s loss is our gain. I rest my case!

White tee shirt, dark jeans with sparkly fringes at the sides, red and white baseball boots, hair in a pony tail, ear pieces in for in-ear monitoring; so the stage was clear of horrible black speaker cabinets across the front.

Accompanied by drummer, keyboard player, backing singer and guitarist – what’s she got against bass players? – she trod every last inch of that stage as she skipped, jumped, prowled, danced and even shadow-boxed her way through the gig.

 

Residing in Bergen, Norway, born in the tiny town of Ålesund, which is close to a beautiful fjord, the sea and the mountains, I doubt the current snow and cold temperatures here in the UK are given a second thought.

As a youngster, Sigrid was inspired by Joni Mitchell, Adele and Neil Young. Sigrid and her older sister formed a band when she was 17, and named it after her dead cat! Sigrid released a debut single, “Sun” in 2013. Her breakthrough in Norway. She signed to Petroleum Records the next year. Then in 2016, she signed to major label, Island Records. Lucky buggers.

Her debut “Don’t Kill My Vibe” EP, released in May 2017, has attracted more than 100 million streams, which is really bonkers, but so well deserved. She first came over here to the UK to play a couple of sold out shows at the London venue Scala.

On this tour, tonight it is half way through the eight dates, including a storming night at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London. After the UK, she is off to Canada, USA and Oslo. There’ll be some UK and European festivals in the summer too, and she’ll win many new hearts, I am sure. Would love to hear a huge festival crowd all singing “Don’t Kill My Vibe”. Perfect song for that job.

 

 

Sigrid sings on the soundtrack to the DC Comics’ action movie “Justice League”, a dramatic cover of  Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows”, not in the set tonight. She also is heard on one of the top video games; which one escapes my memory right now.

She looks about 12, is a petite thing and has the energy of a youngster to match. She has a cheeky and likeable presence about her, and you just know she is as focused as a laser beam and serious as a heart attack about what she is doing, and where she is going with it. She lights up the stage with that so-called X factor (not that one!)

It is amazing to think that she didn’t start writing her own material until her musician brother told her, if she wanted to perform alongside him, she had to write original songs or forget it. So she did just that.

Hard to pigeon-hole her as simply “electro-pop” as many do. Lots more to this girl than that. My guess is; if she decided to surprise us all with a change of direction and still create hits, she damn well will, so there! I get a slight folkie/Joni Michell vibe from what she does, as well as modern day, on-trend pop flavours.

I doubt she ever has a pre-conceived idea of what she wants to write and how she wants it to sound, before she sits down to create. She ain’t chasing no template style or trying to emulate what is already out there. Longevity in her chosen career is assured as an artist, but very much so; as a writer whose songs are certain to be covered time and time again in the future.

 

 

Support on this tour and tonight for a tight 30 minute spot, is from fellow Norwegian Fred Well. He is offering up pleasant electro-pop and decent vocals, and stuff you’d expect a Radio 1 audience to enjoy.

Sigrid released her newest track, “Raw” just a few days before this gig tonight, and that one pops up five-in, tonight. With this debut UK tour totally sold out before she got on the ‘plane, and her track record here of chart hits, lots and lots and lots of people are waiting for her debut album; me included.

In her set, she is singing the stuff we know, but also a lot of new songs we do not know, and all are as equally top class as the hits. They all hold the audience’s attention and keep this room buzzing all night.

She doesn’t waste much time in the set with banter. Bang, bang, bang with those songs. After the opener “Go To War”, she says hello. After song four, “I Don’t Buy It”, she references her newest song and then drops “Raw”.

Before the song “Doing You A Favour”, song nine of the set, she drops one the crowd know, “Fake Friends” and then introduces the lovely ballad, “Dynamite”. She tells us that “Dynamite” is a sad song that she penned in Bergen, Norway, and a place where she says it always rains. Welcome to our world love!

“Credit” precedes the hit “Strangers”, which goes down well tonight, and between those two tracks she chats. Thanking everyone for being there, before the final gold nugget, “Don’t Kill My Vibe”. Such a clever piece of song writing and an ear-worm as a hook.

There’ll be a zillion young women choosing that one for talent contests and karaoke in the years to come, and probably most destroying it! Finding out that is not an easy one to tackle, I am sure.

She has a range and a timbre that is perhaps not credited enough, from her up-tempo dancey pop tunes blasting out at you But then she can drop the mood and deliver a spine tingling ballad where there is no hiding place vocally, and she really doesn’t ever need one.

Not just some here-today, gone-tomorrow pop act who has made friends with ‘Auto Tune’. Not a flipping chance. This gal can really sing. She connects with every last person in this room, and had she been put in a venue three or four times the size of this one (and that will happen in one or two tours’ time, I am positive of that), I am 100% sure the same could be said.

 

She has a gift, and a rare maturity for a 21-year-old. We believe every single word and nuance of her lyrics. That is an art that many singers take years and years to learn. For Ms Sigrid, it is innate and something she was obviously born to do.

It is also patently clear that this is no manufactured Pop Princess; no one shaping her into what they want her to be. She is her own woman and she’s got the songs, the chops and the balls to go out there and kick ass on a global basis, big time.

Sigrid’s UK tour continues on 20th March in Leeds and then Glasgow and Manchester. Plus, a show in Dublin. If you can blag a ticket from someone who cannot make it, do so; even if you have to sell a body part (not your ears!)

Trust me; this artist is destined to fill huge arenas across the planet in the next few years,  and just like superstars Beyonce, Madonna, the late Prince and Rhianna; she doesn’t need a surname to stay indelibly etched into people’s minds. Sigrid is the real deal… For circa 600 of us last night, one day we will be able to say: “I was there”…

 

 

Photos: Jason Sheldon

Review: Simon Redley

 

 

 

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