REVIEW: SOAK – Empire Music Hall, Belfast
The walls of Derry boasted what they have produced with a line-up complete with 3 artists from the city for SOAK’s biggest headline show in Belfast.
The city’s talent hit The Empire on 10th June armed with little more than a few guitars, drums and a keyboard to put on a show that would have even Satan himself feeling warm inside.
It was not long after being listed on BBC Sound of 2015 in November that SOAK’s incredibly delicate, yet powerful acoustic sound offered itself to audience’s everywhere. The release of her debut single ‘Sea Creatures’ in January 2015 quickly snowballed into the release of her first studio album ‘Before We Forgot How to Dream’ in May 2015. Thus SOAK, or Bridie Monds-Watson if you’re feeling birth appropriate, to the delight of her fans kept on giving and concluded her treat of releases with a headline show.
However, the Irish singer-songwriter’s releases with Rough Trade Records come as a mere stem from a solid foundation of music with EP’s as early as 2012. Noted as ‘one to watch’ by The Guardian in early 2013 and taking part in Derry’s Other Voices festival, SOAK has been putting her energy into music for years – the result a book of introspective yet incredibly universal songs, sensitively demonstrating the process of teen years to adulthood.
Despite the youthful themes apparent in SOAK’s music her fanbase is in no way limited, highlighting the somewhat timeless and wholly relatable feelings behind the songs.
Soon after doors opened the slowly filtering in crowd entered to the sound of Rosseau – a two-piece band of guitar and drums kicking off the Derry-bred line-up. The boys impressively dominated the room with their atmospheric vocals and echoes that was a great welcoming for the growing crowd.
Rosseau exited after informing that next for support was Rainy Boy Sleep. Accompanied by Conor, the boys maintained an incredibly chill atmosphere, kicking off the majorly acoustic vibe that was soon to follow.
After a short interval that allowed the rest of the crowd to shuffle into the filling venue and battle to the bar, SOAK casually dandered onto the stage as the lights turned on. Accompanied by a guitarist and drummer we were immediately immersed into previously released single ‘Blud’. It was a quiet start to ease the audience into a set that would largely follow the same tone, with the crowd hooked by the obviously familiar and anticipated song.
The incredibly intimate venue with the crowd both sitting and standing was the perfect setting for the tone of SOAK’s music – the audience tucked away in a settled and comfortable excitement from the get-go.
This was evident as the set progressed into the second song without a word, the crowd at ease and immersed in the soft echoes of SOAK’s vocals. The hypnotised crowd were momentarily brought back with a hello from the timid singer, noting it was her biggest headline show with ‘it’s slightly terrifying, not gonna lie.’ If it wasn’t already obvious then it was evident now how genuine both SOAK and her music is, with clear appreciation for the turn out despite the size of the venue.
After the interjection of some chat, the gig equivalent of an ice-breaker yet not at all as uncomfortable, next up was 2014 single ‘B a noBody’.
Left alone with just a microphone and her guitar she notes ‘this song’s very quiet’. Delivering to a crowd is challenge enough but when your music is as delicate as this then the participation, or lack of, from the crowd is key. However it is clear this is a dedicated crowd, aware of how quiet they need to be to appreciate the music.
Still alone the crowd hears next song ‘SHUVELS’, with an invitation to sing along. The talent SOAK has to completely mesmerise a crowd that obviously overpowers her by number is amazing, her soft vocals so intricately accompanied by a single guitar. The feelings portrayed through her music are not just delivered but shared and this is what absorbs her audience, with the connection simply building as the progresses.
Introducing next song ‘Blind’ SOAK refers to her album that was released just over a week ago. She informs her 100% attentive crowd that this is a hidden track on the album which has only a short version and we get treated to the longer one. We see more of her character shine through as she refers to her dependence on the audience piping down, commenting ‘Really appreciate you all being quiet by the way – I say that sarcastically so yous shush.’
The guitarist and drummer reunite on the stage for the next song, turning the vibe up and storming in with a punching chorus. Before beginning next song ‘Reckless Behaviour’ SOAK plays to the home crowd with a ‘it’s nice to be back in Belfast and play for my family and friends’ – a comment always received with shouts as if each and every person has been personally complimented individually.
The build up of the tone moved the excited audience who welcomed the electric guitar and drums bouncing from wall to wall. The time came to do the whole ‘this is my last song’ that some people bafflingly still fall for. With a hint that she’ll be back if we’re loud enough SOAK ‘ends’ on ‘Oh Brother’ and exits the stage.
The audience opted for ‘one more tune’ and SOAK slips back onto the stage. She thanks the audience for coming out to see her and introduces her next song that everyone has been holding out for. She adds ‘you can sing along if you know it by the way’ – an evidently unnecessary invitation for the excited crowd who waits in anticipation.
The set finishes with SOAK’s debut single ‘Sea Creatures’ and, despite its quiet nature, a dancing audience that concludes the intimate gig with frantic waving heads. Clare Hogarth, GiggingNI.com