Review: Rebekah Fitch – The MAC, Belfast
They say that often the venue fits the performer, not the other way around. Tonight, I couldn’t agree with them more. The MAC is one of Belfast’s premier artistic hubs. It’s downstairs theatre, all high ceilings and ultraviolet haze, has seen some of the best talents in the city and beyond pass through its stage doors. And tonight its sold out stalls play home to the neo-soul and alternative pop of Rebekah Fitch, one of the brightest rising stars to emerge from the northern capital in a number of years. Accompanied tonight by a full band, I eagerly take my seat in preparation for, what is sure to be, a spectacle for the soul.
First, however, an opening act. Derry songstress Reevah emerges from the shadows, her guitar slung low across her body. Silence grips the theatre. Reevah seems unbothered, tuning up her instrument before a smattering of embarrassed applause breaks out. The opening act receives this lull breakage with a gracious smile and a shy introduction. One thinks she would have been equally comfortable in crepuscular peace. No matter, as from start to finish the singer maintained a supreme level of control. Animated, full-bodied vocals echoed around the room, bouncing off corners with a sharp abandon.
A slow, almost country, swoon slithered its way through her dreamy set, while her stripped back aesthetic (the beginning of her set features only herself on stage) allowed for her voice to remain the star of the show. “You were the best of me, the rest was a mystery” she sings, her earthy canticles peaking and gliding with a brilliant gait. It is not long before a band joins her on stage for a performance of the slowly thunderous ‘Heights.’ And as the show progressed, so too does her range and volume, which builds tersely like a cumulonimbus. Throughout it all Reevah remains, barely moving, in control of the evening like Belisama, directing the flow at will. A rendition of newest single ‘Hummingbird‘, with its bluesy pout and aching guitar wail, sees the smooth vocals return to the forefront, peaking during each chorus like a mini-crescendo. Her set ensured that, while she may have emerged to silence, she exited to applause.
A short interval follows before a complete cut to darkness swallows the room. Headliner time. Rebekah Fitch walks on from stage right, weaving in-between her string section and live band members. Her trademark ethereal vocals, like a banshees electric wail, ratchet the tension to the ceiling. Looking as comfortable on stage as any individual, she proceeds quickly to her keyboard, kicking off the night with her unique brand of soaring, celestial alt-pop. The battalion of musicians behind her are a sight to behold, allowing Fitch to do much the same as her opening act, peel everything back to let her vocals shine through. Streams of light fade in and out, or dance around the stage, inevitably finding their way back to Fitch, bathing her in artificial moonlight. And that’s just the first song.
Known for her energising live performances, Fitch’s energy is similar to that of a religious sermon. There’s an omnipresent shadow that creeps out of her speakers and hangs over the crowd, a presence that inspires breathless, wide-eyed exhilaration. It perfectly compliments the liquid cry of ‘Fake Smiles’, which flits between Stevie Nicks and Renée Fleming. The light show added to the majesty, bringing an explosion of vibrant colours to the dynamic sound of Fitch and co. The live string section added a serious, ghostly vibe to the affair, uplifting the vocal crescendos (‘Not Myself’) and giving the darker edges (‘Poison’) sinister malice. At one point, she steps away from the keys, swaying in the stage, caught in her own neon spirited hurricane. Indeed, no word applies better to the night than ‘elemental.’ There was something primal about her magnetic growl that would vary between a whisper and a roar. ‘Need To Feel’ is a highlight of the show, leaving the crowd awash with colour and emotion, while a performance dancer joins the ensemble to deliver a physical interpretation of the turmoil present in ‘Not Myself.’ Never one to shy from the dramatic, Fitch pulled out all the stops to ensure this was a night few would forget.
An audio and visual triumph for one of Belfast’s most prolific young stars, Fitch’s performance burned both bright and true. Putting on full display the talents that allowed her to sell out one the most prolific venues in Ireland, her show in the MAC was an emphatic declaration. Led by a hyperbolic synthy electro pop assault, if you missed out tonight, reserve your tickets for the next show.