Gathered in Birmingham’s most esteemed new music venue, the audience anticipates one of The Sunflower Lounge’s most exciting shows of the current quarter. Since gaining attention and a fair amount of momentum in 2014 through the release of her debut EP ‘Waters’ and a Clean Bandit collaboration, Eliza Shaddad returned at the start of 2016 with ‘Wars’ and the EP Run of which it preceded. An artist with both clear intent and a strong understanding of self and sound, tonight this multi-instrumentalist presents a setlist of clarity far beyond her years.
In a modest setup with two skilled yet incredibly shy band mates we begin at the end as the melancholic opening tones of ‘Make It Go Away’ blend succinctly into an empowered chorus that embodies honest frustration and less poetic lyricism. This humanity runs both through Eliza’s performance and presence, excusing for short gaps between tracks as she retunes her guitar whilst coyly stating that each track is irritatingly in a different key. The opening track ‘Wars’ personifies Shaddad’s connectivity with songwriting as every impassioned note seems to sting her lips during its forceful, hopeless chorus.
In this intimate venue the drums often completely dominate the overall sound, and as the gentle, pacifying verse of ‘You For Me’ began accompanied by nothing more than Eliza’s finger picking, I was yearning for the percussion to remain silent. I discussed with the songwriter ahead of the performance how her music joyfully skips between genres and this becomes more apparent in a live setting. The worldly folk of ‘When We’ evoke notions of Sharon Van Etten and Susanne Vega leading in to ‘A Good Man’ which is purely warm soul, as though a cover of the transcendent Nina Simone.
In penultimate position tonight we find the EP’s title track, an immersive and exaggerated piece of folk rock allowed to truly breath onstage. Eliza’s voice turns from sonnet to siren as she howls her feverish warning call amongst a barrage of 70s bass notes and intense percussion. Demonstrating a vocal prowess unlike that found on her recorded package, there is a power here and a poeticism reminiscent of Shaddad’s rich Scottish heritage that she claimed to be unaware of yet onstage, it is starkly obvious.