British singer-songwriter Jade Bird glided into DC on October 16th and gave an enthusiastic crowd at Sixth & I a night full of incredible folk rock.
Jade eased on stage alone with her guitar and preceded to perform “What Am I Here For”, a slow, mournful song about heartbreak. It was as if the audience held our collective breath during each guitar strum and note, even a pin dropping would have dispelled the quietude.
Next she played “Punchline” and “Honeymoon”, both new songs from her latest album. She described “Honeymoon” as being ‘about inharmonious relationships’ and that she ‘does write a lot of songs about heartbreak’. There were moments during the chorus I wondered if she was channeling the verve of fellow Brits, The Beatles.
Before Jade, two openers set us on the right path, the first, Lucky Kilmartin, charmed the crowd with his reflective folk songs and acted visibly moved by the size and warmth of the crowd, claiming to have performed mostly in small pubs. Jade later said this was Lucky’s favorite show ever, but maybe he says that to all the pub crowds. The second opener, Diana DeMuth from Maryland, rocked the crowd with a fiery set of folk rock.
Despite the themes of heartbreak Jade writes about, she is among the most effusive and grateful performers you will ever witness live, breathlessly conveying her joy at performing again after the pandemic between songs. She informed us that she needed to get sassy at some point, so next she gave us “Uh Huh” and then confided that she would add a song originally not part of the set, but she was feeling the vibe from the crowd. So we got “Side Effects”, one of my favourite* songs from her oeuvre. In all she performed six songs solo, with just a strumming guitar, before Lucky Kilmartin joined her for two additional songs, including a cover of Radiohead’s “Black Star”.
She is touring for her second album, Different Kinds of Light (via Glassnote Records) released in August, and already has passionate fans for this new music, as evidenced by the half dozen people dancing in the front pews of the synagogue. Jade marveled at her first time playing in a synagogue, admiring the lofty, white space, while wondering if she might accidentally go too far and offend the Jewish religion. Since Sixth & I invited her to play, we can imagine they were as pleased with the results in the end as was the audience, murmuring in happiness on the way to the merch table downstairs or to the exit.
After “Black Star”, Jade welcomed her backing band to the stage to continue the show with a full compliment of instruments; drums, bass, keyboard, harmonica, and more. The second half of the set began with a series of new songs from Light, starting with “Prototype” an uplifting reflection about falling for someone after bucking the trend of choosing the wrong men, made whole with a dash of harmonica from Lucky.
She closed out the fine evening with three out of four songs from her self-titled debut album, including “I Get No Joy”, which absolutely sparked the revelers in the front pews to excessive feats of dancing and jumping. There was much joy, despite Jade’s assertions. The final song was the fast paced, rocking anthem “Going Gone”, and she exited stage right to thunderous applause (and jumping). Overall she performed 17 songs, including nine (of 15) from Different Kinds of Light.
When just Jade and Lucky returned for an encore of Dolly Parton’s slow-burning “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind”, Jade prefaced it with ‘I don’t usually do this, but…’ and preceded to make a few people tear up (presumably).
If you are new to Jade Bird’s music, your music acquiring websites are currently waiting for you to stop what you are doing and get a copy of both her albums, Different Kinds of Light and Jade Bird.
We look forward to her next foray into DC.
- What Am I Here For
- Uh Huh
- Side Effects
- Different Kinds of Light
- Black Star (Radiohead cover)
- Rely On
- Now Is the Time
- I Get No Joy
- Going Gone
Do I Ever Cross Your Mind (Dolly Parton cover)
* British spelling, natch.