Live Zone

Olivia Dean / Aby Coulibaly, Albert Hall, Manchester, 27th April 2024



If I said that the UK’s latest pop Princess Olivia Dean looks a lot like Linda Rondstadt in some of the lovely pictures our photographer Romy Caton-Jones shot at the Manchester gig on Saturday night, the majority of the 25-year-old rising star’s fans would not have a clue who Linda is, based upon the average age of Ms Dean’s fanbase.

Manchester’s Albert Hall was the third show of her sold out eight date UK tour promoting Oliva’s hit debut album “Messy” – released in June 2023 – which was Mercury Prize-nominated and peaked at # four in the UK album chart.

The circa 1900 fans here were well up for it and in loud voice throughout her 18-song set – see full setlist at the bottom of the page – backed by a skilled seven-piece band of drums, bass, guitar, keyboards and a three-piece horn section.

The venue is slap bang in the centre of Manchester adjacent to busy Deansgate; a Grade II listed building; a beautifully restored Wesleyan chapel that offers a picturesque backdrop of stained glass windows, ceiling arches, ornate vestibules – and we must not forget “its original organ”, which her keyboard man didn’t need to utilise! [The venue reminded me very much of the famed Ryman in Nashville, the so-called “mother church of country music” and has a similar vibe.]

Three times BRIT-nominated, London-born Olivia looked the part of a sophisticated young artist in her silk [or satin!] full length gown with straps peppered with flowers, her curly hair back lit with the stage lights.

She had an air of elegance in her Prom style dress, and with her stage presence and sparkle that real stars possess.

She has proven her star is very much on the ascent and shining brightly, in the fact she has three sold out nights at London’s iconic Eventim Apollo on this tour – and she is due on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in June.

Prior to Olivia’s arrival on stage to loud screams, support act, Irish singer and songwriter Aby Coulibaly gave a strong performance – and many in the crowd knew her songs and lyrics off by heart. She gave us a healthy dose of r&b.

Her song “Still” promoted a mass singalong to the chorus, during which Aby asked people to turn to the person next to them for “a twirl” to the song. Aby informed us at the end of her set that we were about to experience a show, not just a gig. OK, we are ready when you are Olivia…

Ms Dean kicked off with the opening track on her album, “UFO”, and on to “Ok Love You Bye”, “Echo”, “Danger” and Cross My Mind”. “Be My Own Boyfriend” got a huge response, which Oliva tells us is her favourite of the songs she has penned.

I will state here and now; her live vocals are bang on and clearly she needs no studio skulduggery to sound as good as she does. The set is a mix of tracks from “Messy” and previous singles.

The former BRIT school student skips and dances around the stage for most of the set, her drummer and keyboard players for company, while the rest of the band are on raised platforms behind her.

For a new love song, “Touching Toes” – which she told us she has only just written about a month ago – the pace is slowed down and the band leave the stage for Olivia to play guitar and sings the song beautifully. Nice to near her vocals so clearly without the band for this spot. She is at the piano for “I Could Be A Florist”, when the band return.

She speaks about her last time in Manchester when she played the much smaller venue Gorilla, and she mentioned how different this venue and this concert is. She coyly chuckles and says “Stop it!” to the fans calling out “I love you Olivia” and chants of “Deano” throughout the gig.

She seemed uber-relaxed and comfortable in her own skin – at one point sipping a can of Red Stripe beer. She played tambourine and ‘egg shakers’ in some songs.

She sits at the piano and tells us her song “Everybody’s Crazy” is a song “born out of pure anxiety”, which was met with loud cheers to which she responded: “Yeah, everybody has it, everybody goes through it”.

She mentions that she loved something that happened last time she played in Manchester, where the audience put their mobile phone torch light under their beer ‘glass’, to illuminate them like lanterns, which prompted The Albert audience to follow suit.

“Dangerously Easy” is a song about how all her ex’s have unfollowed her on social media, but how she still follows them because she likes to ‘keep tabs on people’. For the song “Ladies Room” we get the band introductions, and Olivia’s question: “Manchester, are you ready for some solos?” “Reason To Stay”, went down well, the first song she ever put out into the world.

Olivia told us how grateful she is that she gets to do this and that people listen to her music. Penultimate song of the set, “Carmen”, is a song for her “Granny”, and “the bravery of immigrants”. Olivia was visibly emotional when the fans sang every word back to her. We heard recorded clips of her Guyanese grandmother talking at the beginning and at the end of the song. It was a real, “Ahhhhh…” moment.

She closes the night with her hit song “Dive” – Oliva revealing she thinks it “silly” when a band or artist exit the stage only to come back on a few seconds later for an encore. She says she would not be doing that on this tour.

The 2023 BBC’s “Introducing Artist of the Year” spoke about recently being in the US on tour – which included a triumphant Coachella festival performance – and cheekily tells us that America is “a bit weird”, so she is very happy to be back home.  Oliva says her goodbyes with: “I’ve had such a lovely evening”.

The UK’s latest and most promising young pop/r&b/neo-soul princess, Oliva Lauryn [after Lauryn Hill] Dean can look forward to a long and successful career. She deservedly has sold out her entire UK tour – Manchester the third show of the tour.

I believe she will follow the likes of RAYE in the next few years, to become one of the biggest-selling artists and a red hot musical exports this country has seen in decades. Watch her go…

  • Olivia Dean will headline this year’s Love Supreme Festival (her first festival headline performance) on Saturday July 6th
Aby Coulibaly
Olivia’s Setlist:


Photos: Romy Caton-Jones

Words: Charlie Cox [Additional input Romy Caton-Jones]




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