What better way to celebrate an album release day than with a sold-out show in The Academy? The ink is barely dry on the album sleeves of her eponymous third studio album and Wallis Bird is out to give the tracks a good airing with a full band. The album is progressive for Bird, in that she focuses a lot more on the darker side of her song-writing abilities than those trademark crowd-pleasing singalong songs. Nevertheless the crowd are riled up early with some old favourites – the trio of ‘The Circle’, ‘La La Land’ and ‘Travelling Bird’ allow them to lend their voices early on.
An impassioned rendition of new track ‘I Am So Tired Of That Line’ follows, Wallis addressing her frustrations with the auto-answers of the powers-that-be in modern society. The next segment of the show allows time for the more understated tracks of the new album to shine – the brilliantly atmospheric ‘Ghosts of Memories’ is stunning, aided superbly by Aoife O’Sullivan’s violin. But sadly, the all-too-common problem encountered at gigs in Ireland of idle (yet audible) chatter presents itself to spoil the end of the song.
Last May, Wallis Bird played an acoustic show in Whelan’s. Musically, she was in top form – but the gig was marred by a minority of incessant chatters, eventually leading to Bird stopping mid-‘Measuring Cities’ to pose the question in their direction as to why they had bothered to pay in to the venue to see her, when they could’ve gone into the front bar for free to have a chat? Not an outburst, by any means – she was only saying what the rest of the audience were thinking. Tonight in The Academy, there IS an outburst. “I’m always nervous playing in bigger venues, I feel you lose intimacy, ya know?” she muses, met by a cheer of approval – “Well, shut the f*ck up while we’re playing then!” Quite the statement to make to one’s fans… Was it necessary? Well, actually yes it was. Could she have worded it better? Probably. Either way, the subsequent duo of ‘I’m Still Here’ and the impossibly sweet ‘Feathered Pocket’ are met with the respectful silence they deserve as Wallis pours her heart and soul into each – the reward being the follow-up of an emphatic performance of ‘To My Bones’ which lifts the mood right up to the roof, before latest single ‘Encore’ proves its worth by closing out the main set on a high.
It’s a very short break for Wallis & band as they barely reach the bottom of the steps side-of-stage before returning to thundering applause for ‘Blossoms in the Street’, the leading lady’s energy and zest for her guitar playing hitting its peak – at this stage it’s not so much an instrument as it is an extension of her person. “We’re gonna do something we’ve never done in The Academy”, she declares – and with that the band down tools and clamber into the centre of the audience, before Wallis crowd-surfs her way to join them. It’s time for ‘In Dictum’ – the wonderfully moving examination of conscience that has been a long time live fixture and has now found its way onto album #3. No microphones, no amplifiers – just a lone acoustic guitar for accompaniment as Wallis belts it out from the middle of the floor with the capacity audience joining in on backing vocals for the refrains. It’s certainly a unique way to close a show – and judging by the amount of people who chose to enjoy the moment through the screens of their raised smart-phones, one that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Photos: Luis Faustino