On the 7th of March, I tootled along to the Trinity Centre in Bristol to see the phenomenal Olivia Dean on her UK Tour. Now Olivia Dean is on a bit of a mad rise at the moment, after being named ‘Breakthrough Star of the Year’ in 2021 by Amazon Music she’s been on an escalating journey through the music industry.
Olivia refers to Amy Winehouse and Carole King as some of her musical influences, and you can certainly hear it within her music. Her soaring vocals and punchy baselines coalesce into phenomenal and easy-to-listen to hits. I was a fan before the show, with her songs ‘Echo’ and ‘The Hardest Part’ arriving into my life at crucial times. The beauty of her music is in their seeming simplicity, with her voice the focal element of all of her music. What a voice it is. I’m no audiophile or soul music aficionado (as you can probably tell), but the depth and beauty of her vocals feels a cut above the rest. Her music feels intimate, like she’s talking to you and only you. Even in her heart-breaking ballads you come out of it feeling an emotional weight has been lifted. For me, lots of her music feels like therapy.
The gig was set in the rather atmospheric Trinity Centre. The Trinity Centre is an old church, with its converted mission to provide “a progressive program of arts and cultural events” and to “Respond, Empower, Amplify”. It’s quite the setting, with the church columns and dramatic stained glass amplifying the performance. Also, the pints are a resonable price, so can’t complain.
Sometimes it’s hard for artists to recreate the intimacy of their singles, especially within a live setting. Drunk swaying adults seemingly have a tendency to chat through the quiet parts (we’ve all been there). This was my worry going into the Trinity Centre Tuesday night.
Once Olivia began, my fears were immediately assuaged. Beginning with her new single, “UFO” a beautiful song about being alienated, confused but finding solace and landing within the love of someone. It was absolutely beautiful, and she sounded exactly like the record. This song reminds me of falling in love for the first time, I was immediately sold.
Then came the aforementioned “Echo”, one of my favourites before the gig. I intended to record more of her music, you know so I could watch is all back to scrutinise and analyse like the proper media critic I am, yet I found myself lost in it. I left with a 35s recording of Echo, and a lighter heart.
As well as the more popular singles, Olivia played some of her unreleased music throughout the gig. Whilst I can’t remember any of the names (blame the cheap pints), I was a huge fan of all her debutants. Whenever the album is out, it’s certainly one to check out.
Her music isn’t all slow RnB sways, her song ‘Danger’ (another favourite) has had me humming the chorus to myself all week, much to the dismay of the rest of floor 5 of the library.
Despite being in a room full of people, with some falling into me (looking at you backwards hat guy) her music felt as personal to me live as it always has. That intimacy I described was there, and I loved it. The best way I could describe it, is as a hug. A hug from that friend who always knows what to say, and how to say it. A hug that says, in one breath, “it will be ok” and “you aren’t alone”.
I had a wonderful time, and I would recommend both her music and her live performance to everyone interested. I think she’s going to be a huge star within a few years, as she absolutely deserves to be. I’m glad I got to catch her on her rise.