Wallis Bird is one of an increasingly rare breed of singers. The Wexford lass is the type who builds a name for herself through incessant touring, wins support though word of mouth more than online hype and slowly acquires a dedicated fan base who – in some cases at least – seem to trail along after her for city after city. Her slow-building career is perhaps the reason why when Wallis picked up a Meteor Award earlier this year – and with it a jump in national level recognition – she looked so shocked and excited she nearly hit the roof.
Energy is certainly a non-issue for the petite blonde. She might joke about sweating buckets throughout her set (even throwing in a story about a language error that led her to ask a German audience to put on their clothes), but it doesn’t stop Wallis from throwing herself about the stage, sporadically head banging, swapping guitars half way through songs and generally behaving in a way that suggests she prepares for gigs by mainlining Red Bull. As for the crowd, they’re so into tonight’s set that Wallis proclaims ‘I don’t feel like I’m playing to you, I feel like we’re doing this together’.
It is quite a performance: with a full band behind her, Wallis’ musical range is extraordinary. She starts in hippie territory, turning out an assortment of quirky, love-fixated ballads that take an odd alternative -Disney soundtrack’ direction with their bops and yeahs, and ending at all-out moshable rock that heavily resembles Yeah Yeah Yeah’s -Phenomena’. Tying together such a diverse selection is an achievement in itself, but Wallis well-practiced renditions of latest album New Boots seem natural and perfectly matched, with an exceptionally boisterous -LaLaLand’ and fan’s favorite -An Idea About Mary’ summing up the lady’s vivaciousness.
By the time the encore comes around Wallis has built a great camaraderie with the crowd, and rewards us with a sappy tribute song about how she’s recently, ‘luckily’ fallen in love, one of only two tracks tonight she performs as an un-backed acoustic musician. A great thing it is, too. Mix Wallis’ sing-along vocals with the musical steroid injection that is her backing band and her -bundle of energy’ ethos, you get a charismatic jukebox of a singer whose finally getting just a small part of the hype she’s earned.
Photos by Sara Devine.