25th April | SouthBank

Witnessing a performance by Rozi Plain is somewhat like experiencing a waking dream.  She’s been a in the music business for a decade now, and with her experience has come a fascinating ability to conjure up a hazy midsummer’s day—even on a dreary Thursday evening in April.

Nuala Honan comes on first. She has an infectious enthusiasm, that bubbles through her as she sings. ‘Slow Down’ is paradoxically an upbeat opener, and she’s already bouncing on stage to match. Nuala has a habit of singing on tiptoes at the mic, as if releasing her voice from the full length of her body. With some endearing (and admittedly nervy) chatter, she wins the crowd over, launching into a slower ‘Wolves’ for track two.

Honan’s vocals have an operatic quality to them, and she’s hitting the extended high notes with ease. It’s rare that we see her drop her beaming smile, which just adds to the sunshine on stage. Behind her, the band shred their instruments, especially the stellar Luke Cawthra on lead guitar.  I almost don’t want Rozi to come on during the pacy ‘Head Undone’. Nuala agrees: “I wanna do a whole set of that!”.

Once Nuala Honan’s bright and punchy rock has left our ears, Rozi arrives, brandishing her guitar. It’s emblazoned with an Extinction Rebellion sticker – she clearly knows her audience. ‘Swing Shut’ starts the set – one of the best tracks from her latest album, What A Boost. There’s a little bit of a problem with the bass levels at first, but Rozi’s instantly in the zone. After her carefree voice, the synth and banjo players sing echoing harmonies.

Rozi’s music is not unidirectional towards the song’s finish line: it’s more of a holistic endeavour; a soundscape filled with interweaving parts. On ‘Trouble’, this effect begins to take the listener to a different world, one with softer edges. During ‘Symmetrical’, the band sway in time with each other, which is light-heartedly comedic, and feels somewhat like Rozi’s lyrically-fashioned “realistic dream”.

The band members themselves enter their own inner worlds—Rozi sings primarily with her eyes closed, as comfortable as one asleep. Her music isn’t so danceable, save for a rhythmic head bob or tap of the foot – but the crowd are nonetheless enthralled; encapsulated in the dreamscape. The lyrics on ‘Dark Park’, likewise, recall a foggily-imagined reverie: “Forget, remember, forget.” Rozi plays a couple of older tracks, too, with ‘Actually’ and ‘Jogalong’ from 2015’s Friend being warmly received by fans. Synth player, Gerard Black’s soft falsetto floats lightly over the texture.

Final track, ‘When There Is No Sun’ is a lullaby at the evening of the set, hushing us as we descend into the “eternal sea of darkness”. The band then leave the stage, but the chorus of cheers ensures they return for an authentic encore, and play a stripped-down version of older track ‘Humans’. It’s pure Rozi Plain: simply vocals and bass. Slowly, the track fills out into a lush finale, as synth and bass guitar join in. It’s a perfect ending to the gig, and as we step back out of the SouthBank Club, it feels like a jolt back into the waking world.

See the video for ‘Conditions’ here: