Words by Tom Frodsham
There’s a song on my playlist by George Ezra called ‘Budapest‘. I’ve had it on my playlist since last winter – I don’t know how it got there or if a friend suggested I download it or what but it’s a track I’ve listened to over and over again. I love it when that happens; it doesn’t happen enough does it? You find a track that you listen to on repeat and it’s your new favourite song for the next few weeks. Mainly it was Ezra’s voice that captured my attention. It’s rich and mature and contrasts so well with the simple production on the catchy track. So when I saw that Ezra was kicking off a European tour beginning in the UK I couldn’t resist the chance to see him play the song in person.
Manchester Academy 2 is one of those venues we have here that can bag some really credible and diverse performers. About this time last year I saw the incredible James Blake in the same venue so I had a feeling the space would be a good choice for Ezra to perform in. Last time he was in our city back in February, Ezra played at the Deaf Institute so it’s great to see his following has grown this quickly and he can fill bigger venues.
The venue was full of young and old music lovers, packed so much I think the main Manchester Academy could have been chosen! Ezra entered the stage with the crowd cheering him for what felt like 10 minutes, before he kicked off the set with new track ‘What You Waiting For?’ and continued with a playlist of songs from his upcoming debut album ‘Wanted On Voyage‘ (released 30th June). His tracks all have a quirky storyline in them; whether it’s about his oddball best friend in ‘Benjamin Twine‘ or the uplifting ‘Cassy ‘O‘. You’ll see if you follow Ezra on Twitter or Instagram that he’s a bit of a joker and doesn’t take himself too seriously so it’s good to hear he brings that characteristic into his music.
One thing that stood out for me was his voice. It’s deep and powerful; there’s no mistaking who it is. Considering he’s only 21 Ezra sounds like a well-travelled blues musician. After several tracks with his band he concluded with an acoustic set. Just him, his guitar and the spotlight to some more emotive tracks like ‘Barcelona’ (inspired by his latest travelling experiences) and ‘Spectacular Rival’. The audience was transfixed by his music and when I had a look around at the crowd no one was distracted when he was performing.
With only two EP’s and an upcoming LP in his back catalogue to play it wasn’t long until he performed the night’s last track before the encore: the aforementioned classic (well for me anyway) ‘Budapest’. Even though it featured on the 2013 EP ‘Did You Hear The Rain?‘ it was only in April that he released a promo music video and accompanying single. I know its bias but he saved the best track until last.
It didn’t take long for the crowd to sway Ezra back onstage for the encore where he belted out his tracks ‘Benjamin Twine’ and final sing of the night ‘Did You Hear The Rain?’. If you haven’t heard either of these before get on YouTube now because both are so different but both stay true to Ezra’s talent for turning folk songs into commercial tracks with catchy hooks that make you want to hit the repeat button.
You know you’ve come across a great artist when you get excited to hear ALL their material. For me I think George Ezra has that range of talent and performance that can make him a mainstream success. His songs are witty, catchy and quirky that when wrapped up into an end product his sound is both commercial and true to his folk background. I don’t know who hit that download button, or whether I was in one of those binge downloading sessions but Ezra’s track ‘Budapest’ has got to be up there in my ‘Most Played’ playlist that I think it’ll stay there for quite some time. His debut album is out in just a fortnight so when I buy it, don’t try and distract me with any other artists please? I don’t think my iTunes library can take it.