Jade Bird laughs a lot. Before songs, in between songs, at the end of her show as she graciously accepts somewhat riotous applause. She seems overwhelmingly happy from start to finish, even amidst apologies for playing “more sad songs” . It is a whirlwind performance, from the loud and infectious laughter to plentiful raw refrains about heartbreak, divorce and affairs.
“I’ve never been cheated on personally,” Bird tells us, “so I have to adapt to a mindset that isn’t necessarily my own.” It would appear she adapts well: the songs are poignant, or boisterous, sometimes both, and for someone who says early on in the proceedings, of the potential poor views of the stage for some audience members, “I’m only a little person!” she does not come across ‘little‘ at all. On the contrary, her vocals come across as all the things you ever wanted to say in a relationship, or at the end of one, on steroids.
The music details women’s situations in relationships and beyond; idealism and sorrow that has heralded the country music scene for decades. Yet it seems lazy, even patronising, to conclude that she is but a “strong woman”; Bird’s music is perhaps more that of a “real woman”. Not because there is any such thing as the opposite, but rather because Bird has a succinct way of telling an audience what is real for her, strong or otherwise, and gripping them with it.
“It is fundamental that I am a women to perform most of my songs,” Bird explains, “as a lot of them encompass a young female’s perspective.” She names her mother and grandmother as role models: “[they] inspired me to never take no for an answer and not to give up,” as well as bassist Jesske Hume who plays on the “Lottery” record.
2018 is ready for Bird. Following a performance of “Lottery” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon came a play on BBC Radio 1: two sizable transatlantic platforms in a fortnight. Meanwhile, her Instagram feed is funny, honest and self-deprecating, as she slumps on a treadmill in one video and then widens her eyes following the Radio 1 play of her single on Nick Grimshaw’s show in another. ‘Infectious’ comes to mind: a woman you want to be friends with because she’s… Normal. You feel you might as well have gone to school with her.
Although with guitar in hand, Bird is a far cry from a candy-tipped Swift-esque pop. This is a woman whose Spotify “Up to Now…” playlist, detailing her inspirations and loves of the music world, begins with Martha Wainwright’s “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole”. What does ‘femininity’ mean to her? “Femininity is a form of expression. For example femininity for me is being able to be myself, which happens to be a woman. I think it’s… confidence, happiness and sexuality.” Words that pair well with her shrieking laughter and the belted choruses ready to blow our cosy, Yorkshire venue’s roof up, up, and away.
Bird ends the night by playing Johnny Cash, which pleases the crowd, certainly, but by now it’s a crowd which, in its over-packed venue, is so delightedly stunned by her performance that it seems suddenly much more “little” than she.
Jade Bird live @ Oporto, Leeds, 11th March. Cover photo: Andrew Lipovsky.
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