Who would’ve thought that a 19-year-old from England would restore my faith in “American” music? As a music reviewer and photographer, I see a lot of shows in a lot of genres. I’ve seen some extremely talented musicians, charismatic performers, and fantastic songwriters – many that live here in Austin. Yet it’s rare that I see someone that has “it” – that certain something that transcends the music and truly inspires. Jade Bird has “it.”
Like most of the people who attended the last ACL Late Night Show at Stubb’s, I went to this show to see First Aid Kit, having no idea who the opener was. These concerts usually group a lesser known act from the Austin City Limits Festival with a larger, more established artist for these intimate showcases. Expectations were that the opener would be good. Except that Jade wasn’t playing the festival, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. She took the stage, acoustic guitar in hand, and with a wide toothy smile exclaimed “Hello everyone! How ya doin? This is exciting …”
With these few words, she seemed to charm those in the audience who were paying attention. They clapped encouragingly for this young woman with the British accent, giving her the welcome that Austin is known for.
JADE BIRD PHOTO GALLERY
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Opening with an unknown and unreleased song entitled “Run and Hide,” she struck hard and fast and demanded immediate attention. And she got it. People stopped talking. People started clapping along. And as soon as she struck her final E chord, the audience erupted in loud cheers and applause.
She seemed a bit overwhelmed as her smile grew even wider and she thanked everyone. “This next one’s a little bit of a bluesy one. Do you all like country? You all like blues?” she asked to resounding cheers. She joked about being British and liking country in a silly voice which only further endeared her to the crowd.
And so went her much-too-short set. Her sound is delightfully fresh and yet as comfortable as your favorite jeans. Her strong, rhythmic acoustic guitar playing provides a deep textural bed for her vocals to play against. And those vocals? They command your attention and infect your soul.
Her songwriting seems beyond her years, covering topics like divorce and bitter breakups while exhibiting a no-bullshit attitude and a strength that is very much appreciated in today’s environment.
Jade released a 5 song EP in July entitled “Something American” and yet only two of those songs appeared in her ten-song set. And there were no fillers in the bunch. “Uh Huh” had the audience bopping along and roaring their approval. They fell silent as they absorbed the lyrical poetry of Jade’s “sad song about divorce” entitled “Who Wants.” She tried to veer away from her setlist (which was written on her hand, she explained, like Dusty Springfield used to do with her lyrics) and do an older one instead of a brand new one. The audience was not having it. They wanted the new one and Jade hesitatingly and nervously obliged. “Bear with me” she said before launching into the sing song melody of “Good at It,” a song that defiantly asks her former lover whether the girl that stole him away is really better than she was. The song received an even greater applause than the one before.
In fact, as the evening went on, that could be said of every song. Jade’s final song of the evening, “Going Gone,” was perhaps the night’s highlight with nearly everyone in Stubb’s clapping along and chanting to the chorus of the previously unknown ultimatum song – “1-2-3-4 Come on baby there’s the door… 5-6-7-8 I’m your girlfriend, not your mate…7-8-9-10 if you go down you won’t get up again 4-3-2-1 going going gone!”
And with that Jade was gone. But not before she left her mark on this wildly appreciative Austin crowd. I have a feeling we have not heard the last of this talented musical force.