Live Review: Freya Ridings at the 02 Academy, Leeds

Some people seem to win at life. Freya Ridings is young, beautiful, successful and currently on tour with a wonderful band in support of her second album, Blood Orange. Tonight, the 29 year old takes on Leeds O2. Her band are all dressed in black, and Freya sports a black dress with a touch of added showbiz sparkle. 

Review by Miles Salter. Miles leads the York band Miles and The Chain Gang and is Director of York Alive. 

This is a set full of drama; the opening song Dancing In A Hurricane features faux flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder as the band come on. A few songs in, and Freya, who appears to have a perfect life, opens up about how she struggled with fear and anxiety when she was younger, always nervous about the dangers of trusting another. 

Her songs are little narratives of survival, tales of resilience, of breaking through times that are so devastating they threaten to drag you under. The vulnerability in these songs is what makes her relatable for audiences: humans connect through vulnerability, not strength. At one point she asks the audience to hold their phones in the air, waving little lights to represent somebody they have loved and lost.      

Ridings is a surprisingly physical performer, her hands and arms taking on little flourishes, a little like a younger Kate Bush, often pressing her hand to her stomach after completing a song. She has spoken in the past about how singing is a healing thing, and you can feel the holistic element of it in her life; this is three dimensional stuff resonating through head, heart, body and soul. There is a lot of strength here.

The band are fantastic – and a special mention to the brass section, providing added flourishes. The show balances solo songs (Ridings at the piano) with sections with the band. The closing songs are Lost Without You, her breakout hit, and the brilliant Castles, a hymn to rising up when somebody doesn’t believe in you. ‘I’m going to build castles from the rubble of your love,’ sing the audience. 

What a brilliant, life affirming gig. Ridings must be wrung out after giving her all for ninety minutes. But the audience leave elated.