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24th May 2023

Live review: Billie Marten at the O2 Ritz

Billie Marten plays her largest ever show in Manchester at the O2 Ritz as she tours the country after the release of her fourth studio album Drop Cherries
Live review: Billie Marten at the O2 Ritz
Photo: Billie Marten @ Annabel Benton

Billie Marten returned to Manchester after the release of her fourth studio album, Drop Cherries, with a mixture of acoustic folk and upbeat versions of some of her more lively tracks. Marten’s clear vocals and sincere lyrics really made the impression that she could have been performing anywhere from a tiny pub to a festival stage, especially when it was just her and her acoustic guitar, as she created a strong connection with the audience.

The venue had actually been upgraded from Gorilla to the O2 Ritz only a couple of days before the gig, and there was a sense that Marten’s three-piece band and gentle vocals might have benefited from the more intimate venue that she had originally been billed in. Nevertheless, Marten still managed to connect with the crowd at the Ritz through a well-ordered set, audience participation, and her dry sense of humour. There were barely any phones in sight throughout the concert, which was a testament to the way in which Marten made her audience feel present with herself and her music.

This isn’t surprising, as Marten’s songs have always had the quality of capturing listeners and quietly keeping them entertained. In Manchester, she began the set with the lead single from her latest album, ‘This Is How We Move’, followed by a collection of album tracks from Drop Cherries including ‘Willow’ and ‘Acid Tooth’. Each of the songs demonstrated the record’s relaxing quality, as well as its important themes of nature and love. Marten also played fan favourite ‘Cartoon People’ amongst her more recent tracks, yet the setlist flowed smoothly thanks to the cohesive sound that the singer-songwriter has managed to carve out for herself across almost ten years of releasing music.

Marten also included offerings from her first and third albums Writing of Blues and Yellows and Flora Fauna, taking the audience back to her previous releases with songs ‘La Lune’ and ‘Garden of Eden’. It was lovely to hear the artist performing ‘La Lune’, a song from 2016, alongside a new album which resonates most strongly with the musical themes of her first and in such a large venue. ‘Garden of Eden’ was also a chance for the audience to get more lively, as Marten introduced the song with the phrase “let’s rock” after having performed three songs acoustically.

This acoustic section, when Marten’s band left the stage and the singer remained alone with her acoustic guitar and the audience, was the highlight of the gig. Audience members were asked to give acoustic requests and got very involved in shouting out suggestions, many of which were from Marten’s second album Feeding Seahorses by Hand. In the end, she chose to play ‘Lionhearted’ and ‘She Dances’, both of which sounded beautiful on the acoustic guitar. She finished up the acoustic segment with ‘Vanilla Baby’, also from her second album, which went down well with an audience who had clearly been enjoying Marten’s music for the past few years.

Marten also spent some time on the keyboard to play renditions of ‘I Bend To Him’ and ‘Nothing But Mine’, both tracks from her latest album. The set finished with a two-song encore, where both songs reaffirmed the gig’s intimacy, despite the venue’s 1500 capacity. The encore began with ‘Liquid Love’, where Marten held a gifted bouquet of flowers and organised backing vocals from the audience. The set ended with a popular single from Drop Cherries, ‘I Can’t Get My Head Around You’.

Billie Marten was, all in all, ethereal at the O2 Ritz, and left her audience with a sense of calm once she had finished playing. Despite simple lighting, staging, and a small band, Marten’s stunningly clear vocals filled the room and captured the crowd. She brought Drop Cherries, a largely quiet and contemplative album, to life live alongside some of the most popular tracks from her first three LPs.

You can stream Drop Cherries below:

Annabel Benton

Annabel Benton

Co-Culture Managing Editor at The Mancunion // Twitter: @AnnabelBenton_

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