Ailbhe Reddy at Whelan’s, Dublin, on October 22nd 2017
Taking a quick scan around the room there’s a nice mix of young and old at Whelan’s to see Ailbhe Reddy. The Dublin singer-songwriter has garnered quite the reputation for herself over the past year or so and clearly she is one of those artists that speaks to a lot of different people. From early on it is clear why this is the case as stylistically she mixes traditional folk elements with more modern indie influences. It’s a unique mix which makes her one of the most intriguing songwriters to come out of Dublin in quite a while.
Her band are nowhere to be seen as she kicks things off herself with the serene ballad Never Loved. For some artists being on the stage by yourself can be a daunting experience but she seemed comfortable with it. There’s a raw power to her voice and even during some of the quieter numbers it really shines through.
As her band comes onstage things really get going and we finally get a chance to see the full extent of what she can do. The eerie Distrust which has over a million streams on Spotify is clearly one of her better songs and on the night it really energises the crowd. As the song reaches its apex it’s clear that this is an artist who understands how to construct a song. Even a song like Coffee which as she confesses is about a barista she liked, has real substance to it. As she sings during the chorus “I used to buy coffee just to watch you/ working the machines/ hands beneath the steam/ Are you happy to be gone?” There is a sophistication here lyrically that really paints a vivid picture and brings the song to life.
It’s not easy to put Ailbhe Reddy in a box in terms of genre, but that’s not a bad thing. At times she is reminiscent of Lucy Rose or Lisa Hannigan with her songwriting chops but on the other hand when the band is in full flow it sounds more like Daughter. It’s an intriguing mix and it’s what makes her such a versatile artist. It also means she can switch things up on a dime, and with a track like Fingertips you can really see the indie influence seep through. She has a real knack for writing catchy choruses and Fingertips went down a treat with the crowd.
If there is one criticism of her set, it’s that in terms of tone and mood it’s somewhat one dimensional. With more melancholy songs like Relent and Enough scattered throughout the set, at times it can feel a bit heavy and there isn’t as many upbeat numbers to balance things out. She is still developing as an artist and usually as your repertoire grows the more variety there is to your set. There are some small technical issues which take some gloss of the performance though as the backing vocals were too low and the lead guitar was hard to hear at times.
On the night though, Ailbhe Reddy showcased why she is an emerging star in the Irish music scene. She seamlessly blends different genres of music to create her own distinct sound. If you couple that with her songwriting ability you have an artist that is only starting to show her true potential. While it might not all have come together on the night, it won’t be long until the pieces all fall into place.