Stella Donnelly at The Grand Social, Dublin, 29th April 2019
The 25th May 2018 was one of the most notable days in Irish history, as 66.4% of voters repealed the 8th amendment to the nation’s constitution, which had outlawed abortion in the country. For Stella Donnelly, it coincided with her first time playing in Ireland – a gig she would go on to say was one of the most impactful she’s ever played. So much so, that the closing track on her debut album ‘Beware Of The Dogs’, released in March of this year, is inspired totally by her experiences in Dublin that day.
Fast forward 11 months, and it’s that track, Watching Telly, that sees Stella temporarily suspend her usual upbeat, full-of-jokes persona in favour of an emotion-laden thank you to all those who fought for women’s rights in Ireland in the run-up to last year’s referendum. It’s one of a number of impassioned interludes to a near sold-out Grand Social – a seven-fold increase in attendance compared to her previous show in the city – that Stella makes throughout the night, from the serious (racism in Australia and victim blaming in cases of sexual assault) to the playful (minor digs at Belgian beer and EDM-behemoth Diplo).
It’s this concoction of humour and not giving a fuck what people think – she leaves the stage halfway through the show telling the audience she needed to change her tampon, for example – that has endeared Stella Donnelly to so many in the past two years since her single Boys Will Be Boys went viral as it happened to coincide with the Harvey Weinstein allegations and therefore the rise to prominence of the #MeToo movement.
Musically, the addition of a full band has seen Donnelly grow from talented upstart to fully-fledged indie pop star. The band spend the show exchanging instruments with each other and knowing grins with Stella. It’s clear they’re a tight-knit bunch both on stage and off. Vocally, Donnelly is stunning throughout, with notable highlights being album title track Beware Of The Dogs and debut single Mechanical Bull. Occasional co-ordinated dance moves, especially during Die, increasingly blur the lines between live music and stand-up comedy. Even her attempt at mimicking her mother’s Welsh accent is flawless. Multi-talented to say the least.
She closes with a singalong cover of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time before exiting the stage grinning from ear to ear after a show that undoubtedly meant a lot to her. Ireland clearly holds a place close to Stella Donnelly’s heart, and, even if her Irish heritage is, in her own words, “very distant”, on tonight’s showing, we should be all too happy to claim her as our own.