Freya Ridings played the final night of the UK stretch of her tour in Bristol’s SWX - a promising glimpse of her awaited debut album.
Earlier that day, Ridings tells us, she played one of her songs on the piano at Bristol bus station, only to be joined by a ‘drunkie’ bashing the keys alongside her. Perhaps he, like Thursday’s Bristol crowd, have clearly been touched in some kind of way by Ridings’ music. It draws you in, and if that means slamming the piano alongside her, then so be it.
Ridings has acquired a habit of playing public pianos - namely in Dublin and London’s busiest train stations. These ‘spontaneous’ performances have even the steeliest of commuters turn their heads and gather around the piano. For many, it seems, her hit single ‘Lost Without You’ strikes such a chord that people hold their breath so as not to miss a word. At this point in her career, many of Ridings’ fans are captured in such a way; by accident, but thankfully. Nowadays, it’s this emotional reach like this that gives artists such fervent fans.
From the first phrase of a song that Ridings sings that night, it’s obvious that there is little disparity between her studio and live sound, and so the crowd relaxes, knowing they can trust her. This trust means that at some point that night, they know she’ll recapture the moment when, they too, were stopped in their tracks when hearing the 2017 single ‘Lost Without You’ for the first time.
The buzz of the opening song ‘Love is a Fire’ really shows what Ridings is capable of. Even in a sticky floored, medium sized nightclub, the song proves that with tracks like this, she has festival and big-crowd potential. It’s exciting, and a perfect choice that, quite literally, lights the fire that burned through until she left the stage an hour later.
Her set, as expected, delivers several ballads from behind the piano, and a couple standing up with just Ridings and her guitar, making a joke about not catching the sequined kimono sleeves of her gold dress as she strums. This stance almost works better for her than sitting down, it just feels more in place. Standing really gives way for the stage presence and delivery that the warmth and strength of Ridings’ voice carries.
Her chatty introductions nestled in between songs: ‘this is about a boy who didn’t love me back’, are appreciated, but redundant – Ridings’ songs often need little explanation as they are so refreshingly self-explanatory.
Ridings’ encore song ‘Lost Without You’ is so highly anticipated that the crowd start hushing their neighbor and grabbing their significant other, even before she’s played her first chord. Turning around to face the rest of the crowd, the most striking sight by far is not the rolling tears down several cheeks, but the burly, middle aged men singing along to the chorus, clutching their pints with their eyes tightly shut.
Overall, what was both an exciting debut of many of Ridings’ new album tracks, and some sort of therapeutic emotional purging exercise for some, her upcoming album demonstrates itself to have incredibly promising potential. As one highly upvoted comment on Youtube read last year: ‘people like her need to be famous, not people that mumble crap with autotune’. Already, it seems, things are headed that way for Freya Ridings.
Ridings’ self-titled debut album will be released on May 31st.