Review: dodie at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

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Joyous

While the energy of the audience sometimes overshadowed dodie herself, the crowd's enthusiasm was addictive, and dodie's talent shone through consistently.

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On the strange day that was both Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day, dodie performed the first of her sold-out London shows at O2 Shepherd’s Bush.

The young singer-songwriter began her career on YouTube, playing covers and her sweet original songs on her ukulele. While dodie and her music have matured through the years, her fanbase remains youthful; many of the crowd at the O2 venue were adorned with flower crowns, accompanied by parents, and full of energy from the start. They welcomed the gig’s two support acts with enthusiasm and even sang along to all the songs that were played between acts.

Being near the back of the queue for the stalls, which twisted through the residential streets behind the venue, we missed most of the first support act, a young singer-songwriter Fenne Lilly. As we entered the venue, dropped off our coats, and bought our drinks, Lilly’s soft indie vocals soared through the crowd, her guitar playing gentle and hypnotic. She gave off a vibe similar to that of Lana Del Rey, and her lyrics, as she explained to the enraptured crowd, explored confusions of gender and sexuality. As she left the stage, she thanked the audience profusely for their warmth, and they eagerly thanked her in return.

Next to the stage was Skinny Living, a four-piece boyband who have been following dodie throughout her tour. Frontman Ryan Johnston pointed out the familiarity of many of the faces at the front of the crowd, who had presumably attended multiple performances throughout the tour, and thanked the crowd in advance for their energy. The band’s music clearly took inspiration from folk, with heartfelt lyricism and strong and soulful vocals from Johnston. With boyish charm, he introduced each of the band’s songs, which covered subjects from superficiality (“fuck you and your cool”) to being unable to help struggling loved ones (“I hear you cry for help, but you gotta save yourself”). As they finished their set, the crowd’s energy was at a high, which carried easily through while the crew prepared the stage.

The set up was simple – fairy lights crisscrossed the ceiling, and strings of flowers dangled down from the front of the stage,  transformed into a vlogger’s paradise. The crowd erupted into cheers as dodie entered the stage in her socks, ukulele in hand and hair half-up in a ponytail that bobbed as she jumped about, beaming at the crowd. Her setlist combined songs from her two EPs, ‘Intertwined’ and ‘You’, as well as two exclusive new original songs. She moved between centre stage, with her ukulele or guitar, and the piano, delivering a mix of upbeat and thoughtful tracks with genuine emotion and obviously enjoying her time on the stage.

Known for her openness with her audience, it came as no surprise that dodie introduced each song with an explanation of their inspirations – mental health struggles, lost love, sexuality, and social media to name a few. However, many were interrupted by the crowd’s incessant screams of support, and shouts of ‘I love you’ and, once ‘Happy Easter’, met with laughs from the crowd. But she struggled through, explaining the double meaning of songs such as ‘Intertwined’, as a dreamy or toxic relationship, and dedicating ‘Secrets for the Mad’ to the ‘familiar faces’ of those in the audience who shared ‘the look’ of her own struggles. For ‘She’, a song about her first crush on a girl, she lit up the stage in the colours of the bisexual flag, a thoughtful touch that the crowd obviously appreciated.

While their energy might be disruptive at times, the crowd were equally as thoughtful – for ‘Burned Out’ members of the audience held paper hearts, that had presumably been handed out to those in the front of the stalls queue, up to their phone torches, sending multi-coloured lights to the stage.

Another of the benefits of a dedicated fanbase is their knowledge of the lyrics, as the crowd sang from the balconies and in the stalls, young voices echoing ethereally around the venue. But as dodie performed her two new tracks, the crowd was silent, listening intently to her clever and moving lyricism. For one, ‘Monster’, she capitalised on the crowd’s eagerness to join in by splitting us down the middle and giving each of us parts to sing. As she joked that we’d forgotten, the whole crowd laughed, and we joined in when we were told as she sang. It was obvious that her fanbase was a team, and a tight-knit, welcoming community.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for dodie to return for her encore, as the crowd chanted her name accompanied by stomping, clapping, and cheering. She announced that Demi Lovato was joining her for the show, and the lights and the crowd went mad before dodie yelled ‘”Fool!” and continued with a classic ukulele tune from her first EP, ‘Absolutely Smitten’. She introduced the next song, ‘In The Middle’ with: “This is a song about a threesome!”, and ended the performance by blasting Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’, the crowd joining in gleefully with the ‘bum-bum-bums’ as dodie and her band waved and bowed and grinned.

Dodie’s vibrant songwriting was made for the stage – her tirelessly enthusiastic crowd brought each song to life, and she took it all in her stride with a smile. While her performance was simple, just her, her instruments, and a small supporting band, the stage glowed with her energy and joy, which was reflected by each of the audience members. As we crowded out of the venue, each of us wore a smile that we knew wouldn’t wear off for some time.

Dodie’s UK & Ireland tour finishes on 2nd April with another sold-out date at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Watch the music video for her latest release below:

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12-year-old possessive lioness and shiny goddess of all things nerdy. I am usually great and sometimes Deputy Edit. I support everyone and like everything @faithfulpadfoot. If you speak ill of musicals I may or may not bite thee.

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