Live at Leeds O2 Academy 2nd October 2021
Stepping over the bodies on the pavement, we leave Leeds’ Saturday night recreation of Hogarth’s Gin Lane engravings and enter a very excited audience. Packed to capacity with young couples, gaggles of young women and mums out on a spree. Shouts of ‘Becky’ and ‘I love you, Becky’ repeat though the night from the front to the back. And, amazingly, Becky Hill has the confidence to take on this level of energy and channel it through her songs, her banter and her remarkable stage presence.
Dressed for action, there is a lot of movement but little posing. Her trainers let her pound out a beat on the stage plinths, rabbit jump off them and work those moves the audience wants to do themselves. She’s proud of her album, which comes years into her success, following a stream of singles but the highlights here are that stream of singles, enough to nearly fill the seventy-five minute set.
It’s a smart stage set; three neon boxes containing her band and backing singers. The beats pound and the songs keep coming, with a bit of chat between each, boosting up the energy or telling us about the album or her back story. She introduces the band as she sits the singers down for a rest and tells us how she bonded with the drummer in a festival loo over a love of Goldie’s Drum & Bass. It reminds us she’s a music fan too. A semi-acoustic start to ‘I Could Get Used To This’ gentles us back in to the dance stuff.
She has a relaxed confidence and it might be because she knows how good her voice is and that live gigs showcase it better than records. There is a grit when she pushes it that recalls the blues. It would be good to hear what she could do in that direction. It would also be great to hear her boost the audience and make the set safe for some of the pre-teens who love her songs from the radio: she gives John Cooper Clarke’s ‘Evidently Chickentown’ a run for its money.
As she sets up for an acoustic number (‘Perfect People’) she tells us how she started writing songs at 13 and had a dozen by 17, before working with a band. As a singer-songwriter pop star, she’s a bit of a chart rarity. As she acknowledges, her strumming isn’t all that and she says its “back to the f’ing party!” ‘Lose Control’ is a proper thumper, boosted by her pounding out the beat with her feet. The acceleration towards the climax of the gig has begun and it’s high energy from here. With ‘My Heart Goes (La Di La)’ she rubs up against the lighting scaffold like a stretching cat.
She pauses between songs to barrack a bored looking man. “You’re putting me off – who brought you here?” before bizarrely singing some Tom Jones in an attempt to move him. But then; “this is the part where you lose your shit” – a massive grime beat brings on ‘Gecko’. Then ‘Last Time’ and a huge sing along for ‘Better Off Without You’ (there’s a lot of singing along tonight). She warns us she’s not doing an encore – she’s saving them for when she plays “f’ing arenas in 2022”, followed another biggie – ‘Wish You Well’ – which goes all Ibiza, to the delight of the crowd. And all that is left, of course, is to sing the current favourite, ‘Remember’, and drive everyone into a bit of a frenzy. She walks off and, happy but tired, we are left to the PA system playing Elvis’ ‘If I Can Dream’. And Becky Hill is right to dream.
A consummate performance from someone who believes in her ability and with the force to hold a capacity crowd’s attention.