It may have been a short while since Gabrielle Aplin has done any extensive touring, but you’d never have guessed it from the otherworldly performance that she put on last weekend at Cambridge Junction.
The Sunday night performance marked her very first time in the university town, something she reiterated throughout the night, clearly thriving on the energy the crowd was sending her way. From the moment she walked on stage (when she immediately commented on how great it was that we were all singing Dido in the intermission) Gabrielle’s tiny frame somehow seemed so much larger as she easily filled the space that the stage provided with her huge personality. She is small, but she is mighty.
Sweet Nothing was the perfect choice to kick off the night, as everyone threw on their dancing shoes without hesitation, making the years it took her to visit our town feel entirely worth it. Despite her acoustic roots, Gabrielle’s sudden move into pop was a successful one, and she proved that even the saddest of songs outrageously fun, as showcased through her performance of Night Bus from the Miss You EP. There’s a bittersweetness that comes with finally making a decision to end something, a message that came through even stronger during the energetic live performance as we all shook off our unwanted past.
One of the best things about Gabrielle’s music, is that you can throw her discography on shuffle and be treated to a different genre and mood with every track that passes, and her live shows are no different. Night Bus led into Panic Cord, where for the first time that evening we heard the true capabilities of her vocal range during the moments where she was accompanied solely by her acoustic guitar. You may think you know what this girl can do, but until you’ve stood in a room with her as the silent and appreciative crowd appreciates every note escaping her mouth, you have not experienced the full impact of Gabrielle’s voice. Even with the fog machines triggering her asthma she managed to create an ethereal atmosphere, only ever interrupted by her always cute and usually witty comments. From telling us about her obsession with a kind of tea that also provides motivational support (“from a small seed a mighty trunk may grow”), to her pure excitement about finally living out her dream of seeing a real life totem pole in Cambridge on her day off, every word that came out of Gabrielle’s mouth simply made her all the more loveable.
At this point, the band left the stage, and Gabrielle continued to treat us, this time in the form of an intimate and stripped back part of the set. This, again, gave her the opportunity to really prove what she’s made of, and during Heavy Heart and Coming Home – both taken from her 2015 album Light Up The Dark – there were more moments than can be counted where a wave of exhalation washed over the crowd before anyone had even realised they were holding their breath in total awe of her talent. In fact, this atmosphere remained throughout the rest of the show, as Gabrielle created an unwavering personal connection with the crowd, both through little quirks like having to turn off the empty socket switch and the way her voice resonated deep within your soul as you lived the lyrics with her.
That Girl was a stand out moment of the set, as she broached the recent developments surrounding Harvey Weinstein and other such hideous human beings, before launching into the song born out of frustration, questioning all of the societal expectations that women face. It remains important for those with a platform to stand for something, and for Gabrielle, wearing trainers instead of heels is an act of rebellion. A ridiculous concept, but one that highlights how we all succumb to such standards places on us.
Following her political deviation from the otherwise light-hearted set, we were brought back to love and loss with the incredible Fools Love, the classic Please Don’t Say You Love Me, and what is arguable her most fab song to date, Waking Up Slow. With every note sung, Cambridge seemed to fall ever more in love with the adorable Englishwoman, and it felt far too soon for her to be saying the words, “this is my last song” prior to launching into another dance number, Miss You. And while it was true that the set was drawing to an unwelcome end, an encore was imminent, in the form of Stay and everyone’s fave, Home.
Right up until the final moments, the small crowd was captivated. It has been far too long since Gabrielle has made it to New Zealand shores supporting Ed Sheeran, and the day she announces her return won’t come a moment too soon.
The Power of Love (Frankie Goes to Hollywood cover)
Please Don’t Say You Love Me
Waking Up Slow