Part country-rock, part alternative-pop and all-around joyful creature, Jade Bird has the voice of a legitimate songbird and the stage presence of a seasoned musician. The tiny-but-mighty British rocker is a mere 21 years old, but incredibly enough, she’s lit a fire in the rootsy Americana universe, grappling with songs about love and loss and performing them fiercely and oozing with charm. The last two years have been a roller coaster: she supported First Aid Kit, played South by Southwest, debuted her five-track EP Something American on Glassnote (Chvrches, Phoenix), took a summer festival spin and headlined her first major American tour. 2019 is shaping up to be equally as lively with a full-length album set to release.
“I’m still pinching myself, it’s mental!” Bird shouted gleefully to a packed Lincoln Hall in Chicago after revealing that it was the band’s final show of the American tour.
Much like Bird’s musical capacity, her live show was far from one note, effortlessly gliding from emotional highs to lows. One minute her long hair was flailing during a wild guitar line in “Uh Huh.” The next, she was still and doe-eyed, her voice a force to be reckoned with during “Cathedral,” a power ballad about heartache, or new tune “Ruins” about “being in love a little bit.” “Lottery,” which hit #1 on Billboard‘s Adult Alternative Songs chart, was an obvious crowd favorite and showcased Bird’s signature raspy voice as it touched the high notes.
The gem of the evening was when Bird set aside her guitar for the keys and her three bandmates slipped into the shadows for a solo rendition of “Furious.” “We’re going to delve into a little calm before the storm, so to speak,” she said as her silhouette swayed in purple against the curtains. Baby, you’re a fish on a wire baited in a fishnet attire. It was hard to believe she could follow this with anything prettier, but then she delivered an outstanding cover of “Running Up That Hill” (Kate Bush is one of her idols). The encore closed with another excellent Johnny Cash cover of “I’ve Been Everywhere,” whizzing through Winslow, Sarasota, Wichita and Tulsa like it was no big thing.
Christopher Porterfield of Milwaukee-based Field Report opened the show with a solo acoustic set. A superb lyricist, Porterfield played a collection of powerful, poetic songs like “Every Time” off this year’s album Summertime Songs that peered into some of life’s stranger moments: “Last night I had a dream there was tartar on your teeth.” Toward the end he faintly addressed the political climate, erring on the side of hope: “We’re all we have, so let’s encourage each other and be kind to one another.”
This concert review was written and photographed by guest author Jessica Nikolich.