ORLA GARTLAND + VIOLET SKIES – CHALK, BRIGHTON 19.11.2019
I’ve almost seen Orla Gartland once before supporting Dodie at the Roundhouse in Camden. Unfortunately, it took over an hour to get into the venue and I only caught the last half of ‘I Go Crazy’; it was nice to actually catch her full set this time!
Twenty-four year old Dublin girl Orla Gartland started her music career posting covers on YouTube when she was 13. Her musical journey began as a child when she learnt to play numerous instruments to lay traditional Irish pieces. Her first EP ‘Roots’ was released in 2013 following her first headline show in Dublin. Her popularity began to grow in Ireland, seeing her voted as an artist to watch in the Irish Daily Star in 2014.
Since then Gartland’s popularity has grown outside of Ireland. She released another EP at the beginning of 2019 and began the UK leg of her tour following the release of two new singles ‘Figure It Out’ and ‘Did It To Myself’.
Her songs all have a unique sense of individuality, from the “closest thing you’ll ever see to a rap” in ‘Overthinking’, ‘Flatline’ which you can’t help but dance along with, to the pure emotion of ‘Inevitable’. The beauty of Gartland’s songs are their honest and raw lyrics which touch the crowd’s lived experience in some way.
The CHALK was the perfect venue to see a performance like this, just the right size to create an intimate atmosphere, whilst being spacious enough that everyone had room to stand comfortably. I must admit that even at twenty-two I did feel quite old in the audience, so I can only imagine how old my fifty-five year old dad who accompanied me must have felt! If you really want to know, you’ll have to read till the end of the review.
The night opened with support act Violet Skies who described her style as ballads “some are happy, some are sad, some are existential” which definitely captured the type of music the audience were looking for. Skies is accompanied by the talented pianist Martin Brown, with Skies claiming that they don’t work hard in rehearsals, but their performance suggests otherwise.
Violet Skies is the stage name of Hannah Berry, a singer-songwriter from Wales. In 2014 she played the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury. She has two upcoming headline shows. The first is at St Pancras Old Church in London on 29th November 2019, last night she said there are only nine tickets left and by the time I had gotten up this morning they had all sold out, gutted that I didn’t get one, but I’m thrilled for her that she has a sold out show. You can also catch her on 30th November 2019 at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff.
One of the best things about Skies was how funny and open she was. She wasn’t afraid to tell us her embarrassing and personal stories which created an intimate atmosphere. It was like listening to a friend talk and she really made the audience laugh. The story before ‘Give Me A Reason’ about hacking her boyfriend’s Skype and finding out he was cheating was both funny and heart-breaking. I can’t believe I’m admitting to this, but as someone whose catfished a boy she fancied that ghosted her, I did relate on some level! Her final song ‘I’ll Buy A House’ about buying a house with royalties from writing about her ex, had that badass power we should all be striving towards. Getting the audience singing back “I’ll buy a house” went down well with the crowd and we were all shouting back, it was a great universal ‘screw you’ to all those bad exes.
For me, the highlight of her set was ‘Is She Going To Be There’. When describing the song beforehand she described it as being about having a boyfriend who has “a friend with a bit more” joking that she didn’t mean it in the five legs or orange juice with bits kind of way. The humour beforehand meant I was completely off guard when a beautiful and emotional ballad hit me. I found myself crying and to make me cry with a song I hadn’t ever heard before is a sign of her talent both in writing and performing. It’s a breath-taking and relatable song which hit so hard.
Usually Christmas songs in November turn me into Scrooge, but Skies’ unconventional song ‘Two Of Us This Christmas’ was so moving, I dropped my no Christmas songs till December rule. She joked her Christmas song didn’t quite make the cut for the John Lewis advert, but I personally would pay attention to the advert if it featured her song! ‘Two Of Us This Christmas’ is released this Thursday at midnight, set yourself an alarm and get streaming. It’s definitely making my ‘TIS THE SEASON’ Spotify playlist!
She got the whole audience on side and I would definitely see her again. I haven’t stopped listening to her since and I’ve got all my friends on side. I really have been blown away, never has a support act touched me so deeply. Please go and see her. She’s so passionate and pours her heart out when she performs. Every lyric is filled with emotion, I really connected with her music on a personal level. If you like artists such as Orla Gartland, Dodie, Chvrches and Aurora, then Violet Skies is definitely for you.
Tonight’s Setlist reads:
‘This Could Be Love’, ‘Cry For Me’, ‘Give Me A Reason’, ‘Two Of Us This Christmas’, ‘Half My Life’, ‘Is She Gonna Be There’, ‘I’ll Buy A House’.
Find out more about Violet Skies HERE.
Next came the headline Orla Gartland who brought the energy as soon as she jumped on stage and started singing ‘Between My Teeth’ straight away. The beauty of Gartland is how musically talented she is, playing electric and acoustic guitar, a little bit of drums, and keyboard.
The highlight of her set for me was her “existential pop song” ‘Why Am I Like This’. It was incredible to hear my favourite Orla song mashed up with my favourite Taylor Swift song ‘Style’. It was a pleasant surprise and worked well, going down a storm with the audience. Being in a room full of people chanting “why am I like this” gave me goosebumps. I really wanted a gin and tonic from a can for this song, but unfortunately there weren’t any available in the venue! There really is no feeling quite like hearing one of your favourite songs live for the first time and this is a moment I’ll never forget.
The tone changed when Orla went to the keyboard, joking that “Sh*ts getting sad now”. She started saying that she hoped we like it, changing her mind and saying actually she hopes we hate it just to shake things up a bit. There’s no way anyone could hate ‘Inevitable’, it’s such a relatable and emotional song. It’s a song for crying in your bedroom, but I didn’t have time to cry tonight, because I was just so in awe of how talented Gartland is when she performs.
Her ability as a musician is spectacular, often when people play multiple instruments they are far better at one of them but this isn’t the case for Gartland. Although I love a ballad, the best atmosphere was during ‘Flatline’ and ‘I Go Crazy’ which saw the crowd jumping, dancing and just enjoying themselves. What can only be described as a ‘light mosh pit’ broke out during ‘I Go Crazy’. As someone whose been stepped on during a mosh pit, I have an extreme definition of what counts as a mosh pit, but I’m sure for most of the crowd this was their first experience of moshing.
Tonight Orla treated us to two new songs, asking us if it was okay to perform them, quickly saying that even if we say no she’s still going to do it anyway! Out of the two ‘New Friends’ was my favourite. The beauty of the lyric “I’m just a girl who got hurt and wrote a song about it” was so poignant. It really captured her style of music which is so driven by emotion and experience, turning pain into art which makes her really connect with her audience. From eavesdropping in the bathrooms afterwards, ‘Oh God’ seemed to get a mixed reception as it was less relatable than most of her other songs as her relationship to Catholicism is quite niche and her personal lived experience rather than a universal feeling. I personally quite enjoyed the song and I’m looking forward to it being released so I can give it another listen and fully make up my mind. It’s made me excited about her upcoming EP ‘Freckle’.
Orla joked that the way we pronounced her name makes it seem like she had a ‘W’ in it rather than an ‘R’. As we chanted her name for an encore, she came back and said it sounded like we were chanting Paula, saying “whoever Paula is she’s gone down really well”. Orla, or should I say Paula given my English accent, really is an incredible performer and it’s wonderful to see her selling out dates on her headline tour. Her chemistry with the bassist Pete Daynes and drummer Sarah Stix made it all the more special. It felt like watching friends have fun and created a warm and lively atmosphere. I do wish people ‘heckled’ her a bit less, as she’s funny enough by herself without needing other people to try and have banter with her. The moment they jokingly played ‘flirty’ music so she could take off her jacket was hilarious, the onstage banter was great. The UK leg of her tour ends on the 20th November, but next time she headlines in the UK I’ll be going and I would definitely recommend being there.
Orla Gartland’s setlist reads:
‘Between My Teeth’, ‘Did It To Myself’, ‘Why Am I Like This’, ‘Roots’, ‘Overthinking’, ‘Inevitable’, ‘Oh God’, ‘Souvenirs’, ‘Lonely People’, ‘Figure It Out’ (encore) ‘New Friends’, ‘Flatline’, ‘I Go Crazy’.
For further details visit Orla’s official website – orlagartland.com
Mind the Age Gap – An Old(er) Man’s Review:
Having visited The Haunt on several occasions I was curious to find out what the revamped venue, renamed CHALK, would look like and I can have no complaints, especially as it had new toilets! The room for tonight’s gig was also of a decent size and it was easy to get served at the bar, probably down to the majority of the audience being under 18.
As for the gig, it would not be my normal choice, but after dragging my daughter along to see The Men They Couldn’t Hang on Saturday night (read the review HERE), where the audience was middle aged, the roles were reversed tonight, as I found myself frantically searching for other males of a similar age to myself. Thankfully I saw two and I felt ever so slightly more relaxed, though musically I was still on edge as I really wasn’t sure what to expect from tonight.
First up tonight, Never Mind the Ballads here’s ‘Violet Skies’ (ask your parents). A 30 minute set of slow songs, but quite poignant as they were about her life experience. The first song ‘This Could Be Love’ was quite edgy and even had swearing in it. I never thought I would be saying this about such an act but it was actually pretty good. Trust me that is a compliment as I am really not one for ballads, but when you listen to the lyrics you can’t help but get engaged. I must be mellowing in my old age. I liked her story behind wasting ‘Half My Life’ where she dropped out from studying History at Uni upon realising that there are no History Factories where you can get a job. That was the biggest audience she has performed in front of in Brighton and they may even get bigger in the future.
I suspected that the main act, Orla Gartland, was going to deliver more of the same from the few songs that I had heard, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I wasn’t expecting a bassist and drummer to accompany her on guitar, and it was a much livelier affair than I expected. She was well received by the audience and had a great rapport with them from the word go. She strikes me as the down to earth girl next door that you can’t help but like. The music was mainly upbeat and from ‘Souvenirs’ onwards, the crowd really seemed to liven up. I even almost got embroiled in a pogo thanks to my daughter, but then realised where I was and decided against it! During ‘Oh God’ I’m sure that Orla mentioned something about being 50 at which point I felt like everyone was staring at me, but that didn’t detract from an enjoyable set and my expectations of the evening were way surpassed.
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