Gig review: Gabrielle Aplin at O2 Academy Leeds

Wiltshire-born singer songwriter Gabrielle Aplin first burst onto the scene around six years ago, at the peak of a buzz created by an incredibly successful Youtube channel which drew a large underground following and substantial critical acclaim.

Monday, 1st February 2016, 12:51 pm
Updated Monday, 1st February 2016, 1:04 pm
Gabrielle Aplin

She had, in fact, been bought her first guitar at the age of 11, and the influence of the many artists from her parents record collection soon became obvious in both her playing style and indeed songwriting itself as she covered songs by the likes of Bob Dylan and other greats of that era, and she soon began to take her own songs out on the road.

That famous John Lewis advert with the snowmen (and Aplin’s number one single The Power Of Love, a cover of Frankie Goes To Hollywood) was of course the catalyst which propelled Gabrielle feet first into the big time.

Fast forward to 2016, and to the O2 Academy in Leeds, and you begin to see that all the initial hype was truly justified. No longer it seems is the shy yet supremely talented 17-year-old with the stunning voice – a sole figure on the stage (although she does resurface every now and again). The new, confident, Gabrielle means business.

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These last few years playing festivals and touring her previous album (gold selling, no less) have certainly played their part. Her current stage show and indeed material from new album Light Up The Dark, seems to pack a bit more of a punch. Undoubtedly the full band behind her containing drums, strings, electric guitars, backing vocalists and more is testament to this. Such new songs – Fools Love for example, the title track Light Up The Dark, and the simply-stunning Hurt certainly grab the attention and seem light years away from the acoustic balladry of old. We do get treated to a little of that too though, and it is more than mere nostalgia. We get a couple of her originals performed acoustically but also a timely, fragile cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity. Truly haunting.

For one number surprisingly, she leaves the comfort of her guitar behind completely and lets her voice do the talking as she lurches and flows around the microphone to the beat of her equally talented backing group. For another (celebrated single Salvation), she plays the piano this time, and with such veritable finesse. A beautiful moment.

An impressive gig from start to finish, with the quality of the support not what you could call lacking. The best thing you could say about Hannah Grace, a signing from Aplin’s very own label Never Fade Records, was that her exciting new single Keep Your Love was not even the pick of the bunch. Certainly one to watch out for. Popular young musician Lewis Watson treated the crowd to a solo stripped-back acoustic performance, citing that he could not afford to take his band on the road this time out! We need not have worried though, his smooth vocals filled the room effortlessly and possibly won the hearts of a few – it certainly seemed so, nosing around the venue.

But the highlight truly had to be Miss Aplin. Longevity for her, you would have to say, is a near-on certainty.