REVIEW: Little Birdy, Brisbane Oct 2006

hollywood2.jpgAs part of a national meet-and-greet to promote their new album ‘Hollywood’, Brisbane was once again fortunate enough to have Little Birdy grace us with their presence in all their pop-rock glory.

As you would expect to find in a cosmopolitan city such as Brisbane, Little Birdy’s performance attracted a wide diversity of people. They were all there; everyone from teenagers to aging business-suit-wearing men, mums and kids, guys and girls, and all others in between. Unfortunately for me I was situated near one of Brisbane’s more colourful ‘characters’. Being a rather foul-smelling older chap dressed in his green and gold patriotic tracksuit pants, all I can say is thank goodness he was not a music aficionado. After taking great delight in watching the tech team set up, he promptly left before the band appeared.

While the band was scheduled to hit the stage around 5.30pm, there was a slight delay, which was probably a good thing as it gave the crowd a bit longer to gather. We were informed (perhaps unreliably by our ‘friends’ from Nova) that the cause of the delay was due to a potential wardrobe malfunction (Katy had apparently planned to wear a short skirt, but given the brisk afternoon breeze which was blowing through the mall had opted for jeans instead).

A couple of minutes later all that was forgotten as Little Birdy came on stage guns (or rather guitars) blazing with ‘Come On, Come On’, the first single from their latest album. With its thumping drums and awesome ‘rock’ guitar sound, this quickly got the crowd pumping. This was followed by some of the other new tracks from Hollywood, including the cute electronica sound of ‘Bodies’ to the dreamy melodies of ‘Feeding On The Night’. While the obvious purpose of this gig was to promote tracks from the new album, Little Birdy also treated us to a few of their most loved older tracks as well.

After Katy takes a moment to dedicate the next song to ‘all the fans that have been with them from the start’, the band launch into ‘Relapse’ (from their self titled EP released in 2003). Like much of Little Birdy’s music, Relapse has a sweet sound, which contrasts perfectly with their dark, and at times, deeply introspective lyrics. This is obviously a big crowd favourite and as the song builds to its harder rock edge, a huge cheer goes up, and following Katy’s lead a fair portion of the crowd get involved with swaying arms raised in the air. Then onto another crowd pleaser, ‘Six Months in A Leaky Boat’ which has the crowd once again joining in, this time with appropriate ‘hand claps’ in the chorus. While Little Birdy’s cover of this iconic Finn brothers song is a reverential reworking, helped along by Katy’s breathy vocals they add their own twist and refresh an old classic for another generation.

Little BirdyKaty Steele is the consummate performer. While any band is more than just the lead singer, it’s pretty hard not to focus on her. She is not an artist who tries to win the audience over with smiles and jokes; she applies much more subtlety. Without being arrogant she simply knows that she’s cool, and when she’s on stage she is clearly ‘in the zone’ working her craft, so that the crowd respond in kind. With her quirky sensuality, she is a star and a rock one at that. Her style is individual and eye-catching; all tight black jeans, high heels, and vibrant orange jacket, topped off with her signature red lipstick and nail polish. She works the stage with energy; works it high, works it low, and grooves around with her unique blend of ‘kick dancing’ and microphone swinging.

In fact, it was with a microphone swing that the set ended. While performing one last track from Hollywood, the soaring ‘After Dark’, a particularly enthusiastic microphone swing by Katy caused it to disengage from its lead and disappear to the side of the stage.

All in all the band was high energy, they gave us high energy music, but unfortunately the crowd didn’t meet the same energy level. Perhaps live music presented in this way just doesn’t work in Brisbane, or maybe the venue just doesn’t cut it. Just before the gig, when a girl asked me who was playing (like the huge signs weren’t big enough to tell you!), and I said, ‘Little Birdy’, she kind of got a distant uncomprehending look in her eyes, shrugged and walked off. And it is that response which pretty much sums up the lack of enthusiasm shown by the wider Brisbane audience for such an awesome (and free!) event.

Set List:

  1. Come On Come On
  2. Bodies
  3. Feeding on the night
  4. Set you alight
  5. Relapse
  6. Six months in a Leaky Boat
  7. After Dark

Time and Place:

Friday, 20 October 2006
40 minute set which kicked off at 5.35pm
Brisbane, Queen Street Mall Stage

Little Birdy’s next appearance in Brisbane will be at the Tivoli Theatre on November 25.