He’s had two. She wants one, and preferably very soon. He is Mr Ezra. You can call him George. She is known by just one name, Sigrid.
Cryptic, eh? Give up? Number one albums. Yes, George’s first album and his second, the latest, “Staying At Tamara’s” both hit the top spot of the UK album chart and sold in their shed load. George had the biggest selling album of 2018 in the UK.
Sigrid’s brilliant debut album, “Sucker Punch” zoomed into the UK chart at # 4 on Friday, a week after release. It will go higher methinks, and possibly grab the number one spot in the next two or three weeks.
The Norwegian artist is currently opening UK arena shows for hot property George Ezra on his biggest ever tour – 13 dates in total, selling out the entire run in advance.
Last night the trucks full of gear and the swanky tour buses rolled into Birmingham’s Resorts World Arena (formerly The Genting Arena) for date # 9 of the tour. Circa 16,000 fans – inc. just under 5,000 standing – dodging the rain and wind to catch this respected singer-songwriter riding the crest of the wave of success.
Many there to see Sigrid in her own right, too, perhaps. By the sound of the fans singing along to every word of most of her nine songs in her cracking, upbeat set, she’s a hit with the Ezra mob as well as of her own making, after a slew of radio-friendly singles and two EP releases. Winning the BBC’s Sound of 2018 didn’t hurt her profile either.
Her 35 minute set kicked off with the title track of her stunning brand new album, and a big single for her, “Sucker Punch”. She’d got ’em where she wanted ’em from the off.
Dressed in causal white tee shirt and jeans, hair in a pony tail, it was dress-down Sunday for Sigrid, who the previous night in Manchester, looked radiant in an orange outfit. But it’s not her style that is gonna propel this gifted 22-year-old (she looks about 11) Norwegian lass to huge global stardom in the next few years, it’s her songwriting and her unique voice.
There is no one quite like her out there at this time, and she really is a breath of fresh air in a pretty stale and predictable pop world. Quirky, powerful, socially conscious and a precocious talent as a song writer.
Her killer tune “Don’t Kill My Vibe” is testimony as to how bloody good she is at penning a banger. Delivered as song five in her set tonight. I shall never get fed up of hearing this track, which literally smacked my gob when I heard it for the first time. The way this girl writes a hook is just awesome.
She is always full of energy and all over the stage; a right little pocket rocket. No sitting at a piano in the dark for this gifted gal.
Of her nine song set, only one of the songs is not on her debut album. That song, a former single, “High Five” is another ear worm. She included “Mine Right Now”, “Business Dinners”, “Level Up”, “Don’t Feel Like Crying”, before closing with the fabulous hit single “Strangers”.
The crowd loved her, and this was a time when you’d regret missing the support act by staying in the bar or being delayed in traffic – when that inevitable day comes for today’s opening act becoming a bonafide superstar and filling arenas herself. It’ll happen.
So….its Ezra time. The starter was pretty tasty, will the main course be as appetising? Let’s see…
It was only just over a year ago that George was playing the 02 Academy down the road in the city centre, to a sold out 3,000 fans. Tonight, he’s in the big time with another 13K forking out for tickets to see/hear him.
The age range of his audience is quite something; from five-years-old to sprightly Octegenerians. They all lapped it up.
Unlike Sigrid, George is not one to dash around the stage and work up a sweat. He’ll not scream obscenities, throw a tantrum or deafen people with his volume and wall of guitars. Not at all. This is accessible pop and very much focused on the songs.
He is stepping through doors opened by the likes of Ed Sheeran. Who’d have placed a bet on the fact that a solo singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar could fill football stadiums around the world and be one of the biggest music stars on the planet? But the ginger one did it and is still doing it.
Now it’s Mr Ezra’s turn and he’s getting there steadily. Last April, 3000 punters down the road. Last night, 16000. Soon he will play Glastonbury, The Isle of Wight and a raft of other other big festivals. I have seen him at the V Festival before he was huge, and he didn’t do much…
By that I mean, he stands behind a mike stand, mike glued to his lips, he strums a big guitar and he sings. The fans are OK with that. Little interaction with his band and no gimmicks or fancy footwork required. Voice and guitar. All about the voice and the songs.
Nothing much has changed in his stage performance, between the V Festival a few years ago and now he is filling arenas, and his albums have gone four times and twice Platinum respectively. His profile is through the roof and his bank balance must look good. But he still lets the songs do the work and relies upon his vocals and his song writing on stage. It is all about the music for George, as it should be.
You suss that he is down to earth and not into the flash lifestyle despite access to the beans to fund it, from knowing he refused to stay in a hotel and opted for a private house share Airbnb he found via the internet, when he headed off to Barcelona for a few weeks to write his latest album. Hence the title, “Staying At Tamara’s”, the house owner. I like his style.
Dressed all in black, short back and sides and slight quiff on his bonce, no Hipster facial hair for this young man. Looking more like a smart estate agent than a pop star. That’s where George and Ed perhaps have something in common, they don’t exactly look the part. But it is what they can do that counts eh?
He steps out from the mike stand twice, maybe three times during his 80 minute set, for a bit of a play on that old guitar and the rest of the time, he’s back in his comfort zone, behind that black mike stand, plectrums stuck to gaffer tape, and singing his little heart out, big wine coloured guitar hanging off his chest via a red strap.
The stage is set up like your Grandma’s best room in the 1950s, that only gets used for Sunday tea; standard lamps and frilly lamp shades, record player, potted plant and chandeliers in front of big stained glass type windows, with changing scenes projected onto them.
Quite apt, that he comes across as this decent, clean cut kid you’d be happy taking to meet your grandparents and your Mum and Dad.
He is only 25, but has a deep bass-baritone voice that belies his age and his frame. Like Sigrid before him, he can pen a hell of a hook and has dented the charts at the top end to prove it.
With belting singles in his 17-song set, such as “Budapest”, and the two he closed with as his encore, “Cassy O” and the infectious “Shotgun”, which gave him his first number one in June last year, he was giving his fans exactly what they wanted, and a lot more besides. Hits from current record, and the best of his first album “Wanted On Voyage” from 2014.
He kicked it all off with “Don’t Matter Now” and then “Get Away” before the banger, “Barcelona”. “Pretty Shiny People,” the current single went down well. “Paradise” another highlight.
“Budapest” ended the set before his two song encore. Nice moment when lanterns floated above the crowd during “Hold My Girl”, and the thousands of mobile ‘phones flashed away. (I’d ban ’em from all gigs, myself!! Bah humbug.)
His seven-piece band were well on form and the brass section were sizzling. George’s in-between song banter about the background to his songs and his new album, was dotted with cheeky quips, which endeared him to the crowd.
He has a warm, sincere charm about him and we all know, if you could fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.! Most politicians cannot, of course! But when he says he cannot think of a better way to spend a Sunday night, you believe him.
He’s got that likeability factor that will take him far. But his song writing and unique voice will take him even further. Some artists disappoint live compared to their records. Not our George, and not our Sigrid.
While there is of course a place for a bloke turning up at a gig with a laptop and a pair of headphones, and “mixing” for an hour or so for obscene amounts of money, there will always be a place for sheer talent and concerts based on the strength of the material those bands and artists are capable of delivering.
Tonight it was very much a case of two for the price of one on that score. Ms Sigrid and Mr Ezra are both stunningly good at what they do, as artists. But it is as song writers and the potential for the future, where it gets scary…
If ever the publishers of their music look for investment, I’d consider selling a kidney or two (!) to grab a slice. Kerching.
Photos: Jason Sheldon
Words: Simon Redley