On the other side of London, The Royal Festival Hall is littered with named seats, amid them is one which simply states ‘be a part of every performance’. Clearly Wallis Bird has been taking note. Tonight audience participation is not optional, and Wallis knows how to interact at every turn. Equally, from the moment she enters the stage, her band joining up with friends, she deviates from the set list to perform Dress My Skin and Become What I’m Supposed To, clearly marking her intent to shake things up.
Whether it’s the pulsating rhythm of Travelling Bird or the hushed Ghosts of Memories (before which she commands ‘I beg you to shut the f**k up during this song’ and rightly so) she knows how to grab her audience and hold them captive throughout. Whilst she’s backed by an inventive and gifted band it’s hard to focus on anything but her often frenzied presence. As the entire band crowd round a single microphone for Heartbeating City she brings to life the song, capturing the essence of her latest album. Meanwhile in Feathered Pocket she encourages the audience to make bird noises, whilst I Am So Tired Of That Line is met with a ruckus set of eh-oh’s in the chorus.
Nevertheless it’s not just the new songs which get an outing, and fan favourites Lala Land and The Circle also make their way into the set. Song choices aside, it’s the fact that Wallis seems to be having the time of her life which breathes energy into the night. Everything seems fresh, each lyric is delivered with conviction and each moment is filled with a desire to create. Still, there’s also a mischievous nature to her show and as she rounds off the set with another older hit To My Bones there’s a humorous predictability to her next trick.
As the shouts of encore drag on, Wallis returns to deliver just that and just as with Take Me Home at the start of the night, she delivers Encore with the frenzied, orgasmic vibe of the album, working through to its climax until it seems there’s nothing left to give. Nevertheless, there is, and despite a two hour performance and an unsubtle hint from the venue as they bring the house lights up, she dives into the crowd for an acoustic rendition of In Dictum.
Wallis and her band bring more with every song and with beat boxing, dual drumming and an abundance of ramblings between numbers it’s clear she’s at one with the stage. Rebellious honesty is Wallis’ driving force and her ability to use the crowd as part of her sound removes the gulf between audience and artist, resulting in an epic performance which marks her apart from many contemporaries.