Griff review – Brit-winning rising star is confident and characterful

Chalk, Brighton
After the baffling flop of her single Black Hole, the pop singer-songwriter is still ready to reach for the stars in this breezy, funny show

A year to the day before this performance, Griff won the 2021 Brit awards Rising Star poll, and her star has duly risen. The pace hasn’t been as meteoric as for previous winners such as Adele and Florence + the Machine, but tonight’s showing proves that the singer/guitarist/keyboardist born Sarah Griffiths has done the groundwork.

By the simple devices of a memorable “bubble” ponytail and challenging clothes – tonight it’s bodice-to-knee ruffles – she’s made herself recognisable, as confirmed by a flock of style magazine front covers. Meanwhile, her mainly self-written and self-produced electropop, which tends to focus on the dark corners of past relationships, is arrestingly moreish, and her on stage presence is confident and funny. Receiving a framed tapestry from someone in the front row, she’s genuinely delighted: “A cross-stitch! I want people to see it!” When another admirer hands her flowers, she carries them as she wafts across the stage.

The more meaningful fan endorsement, though, is a roomful of people singing along, especially during the surging heartbreak bop Black Hole. The only thing she’s failed to secure is a breakout hit, but when that happens, as seems likely given the adhesive quality of her big choruses, she’ll be a welcome addition to the upper reaches. She’s ready now; heaven knows why Black Hole, released last year, wasn’t it. After debuting in the Top 20, it dropped straight out, which is hard to fathom as you witness this sold-out room gustily baying the whole thing back at her.

Backed by a drummer and a keyboardist, she packs a dozen songs into 60 minutes, playing her debut mixtape One Foot in Front of the Other in its entirety and bulking things out with other singles, including her 90s R&Bish collaboration with Sigrid, Head on Fire. It feels thin without Sigrid’s lacy vocal counterpointing Griff’s deeper one, but is a rare dud in a set full of pleasures. Chief among those comes toward the end with Sound of Your Voice, when she loops her voice, building a choir of ethereal sighs as the audience falls silent. Suddenly she stops mid-“ah”, adjusts the loop pedal and continues, unperturbed. What’s not to like about this characterful star-to-be?

• At O2 Academy, Bristol, 21 March; O2 Ritz, Manchester, 22 March; then touring.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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