Following a stormy Scottish week which saw Glasgow hit with hailstones, strong winds, and a confusing back and forth dance between bursts of sunshine and then sudden downpours, it was a relief to enter a summery-tropical haven on Friday night when seeing George Ezra perform at the SSE Hydro. A playful, animated backdrop of vibrant moving shades and shapes behind him, Ezra was a cheeky, charming and confident spirit who laughed loudly whilst revealing the various inspirations which accompanied his work, but who would also turn modest during the crowds continued cheers for his talent.
Previously having only experienced one of his live performances through a screen, I had initially had doubts over whether he would be able to engage a space as large as the Hydro, his Jools Holland debut being damp and dull, Ezra rooted to the spot, drained of personality. He washed those uncertainties away, however, whisking his crowd on a shining hour and a half travel, the various destinations bookmarked within his set.
The ringing of an alarm waking the crowd, alerting them for the beginning of the show, Ezra bounded onto the stage to open with his well-known tune Don’t Matter Now. Surrounded by warm brass and a backing of voices, his songs transitioned from light-hearted fun, to sudden serious swells of emotion. Early on, attention was drawn to a lone gramophone which sat on stage, illuminated under the beam of a spotlight as it piped out Ezra’s low, ringing vocal for Did You Hear the Rain?, the sound muffled and cracked, tinged with hurt and regret. Morphing into a full band accompaniment, the song crashed like waves against rocks, a determined passion driving the song, the darker tones ensuring it stood out from the rest of the jubilant repertoire, dripping with meaning and displaying Ezra’s ability to follow his music down different avenues.
This element was further highlighted during Hold My Girl. Gentle and reflective, the delicate nature of the song was echoed in the lowering of lanterns from the cavernous ceiling, swaying above the heads of the faces which turned to watch. It was a special – and picture-perfect moment – which offered a break in the otherwise upbeat and energetic set that Ezra performed. Contrasting to this, Paradise was a sparkling and joyous cacophony of noise, which offered the brass section a chance to stretch their muscles, breaking into a radiant instrumental section which got feet tapping, hands waving and bodies dancing.
Relying not only on his music to create a connection with the crowd, Ezra wove stories throughout, sharing details of the creations of his songs and the adventures he had whilst discovering them. Barcelona was written in that same location, whilst renting a flat with a girl named Tamara – who the second album is also named after. Budapest was dedicated to the city that Ezra never made it to, as he chose to instead remain in Sweden for another day, and Sugar Coat came from his time in South Africa. These anecdotes and confessions humanised the figure on stage, transforming him from a number one artist into a friendly and personable guy, someone you could easily sit and swap stories with over a drink at the pub.
Saving the most demanded song for last, Ezra ended the evening with a spirited rendition of Shotgun, the deep bass lifted by the blazing trumpet, saxophone and trombone, and the band dancing around the stage as they basked in the jubilant cheers from the crowd. It was a fun and enthusiastic night, one that lifted the end of week tempo, ensuring that everybody who trickled out of the stadium had the words to the hit tunes still on their lips, humming the summer notes whilst drops of rain continued to fall from the clouded Glasgow sky above.
By Charlotte Jane Riley