It says a lot about the character of an artist when they begin a gig by bounding onstage with the house lights still on full beam to have a pre-gig chat with their audience. “Just because I’m wearin’ a dress doesn’t mean I’m a lady now,” is Wallis Bird’s opening line of the evening, and from there it’s straight into the trademark gags and colourful language which make the interludes of the Wexford woman’s gigs almost as entertaining as the musical performance itself. One-by-one the band appear from the wings to join in on an acoustic rendition of ‘Berlin’ – a modest opening in comparison to what follows.
New Boots heavyweight tracks ‘Meal of Convenience’ and ‘La La Land’ are confidently churned out early on in the set to a rapturous reception. Wallis Bird doesn’t so much request audience participation as demand it, and after only a few tracks a full-blown sing-song has ensued in The Academy. The crowd are granted a brief respite as Wallis tones things down with some ballads – ‘Made of Sugar’ and ‘Measuring Cities’ – proof, if needed, that behind all of the onstage rambunctiousness there is a truly talented and passionate songwriter, who doesn’t mince her words when it comes to matters of the heart. Fan favourites ‘Blossoms in the Street’ and ‘The Circle’ allow the crowd to find their collective voice again; and the band totally let loose with their on-stage antics and lengthy mid-song instrumentals. An impressive drum solo precedes ‘An Idea About Mary’, which gets even the most reserved of folk on the balcony dancing.
The undeniable highlight of the evening comes in the form of an extended version of ‘To My Bones’ – and as the song comes to a close, Wallis is visibly moved by the unrelenting chanting of her adoring crowd. She forgoes leaving the stage for the traditional encore charade, picks up her acoustic guitar, and debuts an as yet untitled new song – a beautifully crafted folk ballad, sung with a magnificent intensity. The song is a very positive indication of what Wallis’ forthcoming third album might bring. One final tune for the Academy crowd tonight – and it’s “one for the lovers”, as the lady says herself. A vintage Wallis Bird ballad, the poignantly sentimental ‘All For You’ brings to an end a thoroughly enjoyable evening of live music.
There is something truly endearing about Wallis Bird as a performer – it is blatantly obvious by her relentless energy and enthusiasm on stage that she genuinely adores what she does for a living. And in these recession-tastic times, it is refreshing to see an artist who personally ensures that her audience get value for every cent of their admission price.
Photos: Kieran Frost