Review: Billie Martin at Vinilo Record Store

Review: Billie Martin at Vinilo Record Store

Watching live music is always a treat, but every so often you get to see a performance that feels like a real privilege. For me, that’s often when it’s an artist doing what they do best, without lots of production, so you can hear exactly what makes them special. That’s not to say I don’t love a live music experience with all the bells and whistles (I really do), but I’ve found that many of the moments when I’ve really fallen for what an artist does tend to be when they’re performing at their most unaccompanied.

That’s why I leapt at the chance to see singer songwriter Billie Marten play at Southampton’s Vinilo last weekend. I’ve loved her beguiling indie folk for a while – it’s lyrical and poetic and you can’t help but relax to it, but it’s never sickly sweet and always rich in composition. The pared back informality of a record store gig seemed the perfect way to experience it live.

The date was one of several in-store gigs to mark the release of Drop Cherries, Billie’s fourth record and the first she’s both written and co-produced (with engineer Dom Monks). Since being discovered through her YouTube performances at just 12 years old, Yorkshire-born Billie has garnered a loyal following and wide critical acclaim.

Alongside the rest of the crowd, we settled around the corner of the store where Billie would be performing, flanked by a wall of vinyl covers. She greeted us as she took up her spot at the microphone, guitar in hand, quipping that she was about to bring the happy mood down. Instead she drew us in with a truly spine-tingling vocal and stripped back acoustic renditions of tracks old and new. Billie’s voice is soft and rich, and her live performance really showcased the clarity of her vocal and the gorgeous catch in her voice that I just adore.

After kicking things off and encouraging us all to get comfy and sit on the floor, she treated us to a mix of songs from her back catalogue, including the light and summery Blue Sea, Red Sea, the more melancholy Vanilla Baby and the wistful La Lune. Next up was Mice, one of my favourites from 2019 album Feeding Seahorses by Hand. It’s a slow and soulful song, and I don’t think I was alone in being completely spellbound by her performance, made all the more absorbing by the intimacy of the setting.

Asking for a request from the audience, she then played another fan favourite – Live, from debut album Writing of Blues and Yellows. Listening to this one always gives me goosebumps so it was such a treat to hear it live and up so close. I love the line, “I wanna stay out all night, say hello to the dawn / Creep back to bed, they’ll never know I was gone” – and at that moment it perfectly captured the sense of experiencing something secret and special that I think we were all feeling.

Switching back to new material, Billie gave us a soothing version of Arrows before performing recent single I Can’t Get my Head Around You, a mellow acoustic ode to the complete bewilderment of falling in love.

For the final couple of songs, she swapped her guitar for a tiny Casio keyboard she’s affectionately nicknamed Timmy. After demonstrating a couple of Timmy’s most comical sound effects, she ended the set with the raw and vulnerable I Bend to Him, echoing its production exactly on Drop Cherries and providing a captivating note to end on. Watching Billie perform at such a cosy gig was the perfect way to spend Easter Sunday, and I can’t remember the last time I left a show feeling so serene.

Words: Liz Parsons
Photos: Katie Silvester and Liz Parsons

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