It’s only February, and already Mary Spender has had one hell of a year. The self-made singer-songwriter is well loved by her fan base thanks to her strong online presence – a testament to social media activity - and tonight the dedication that has spawned shows. Coming on stage to greet her audience ahead of a sold out set at Colston Hall’s second stage, The Lantern, Mary has a story to tell.
The performance follows years of tireless touring from the Bristol based musician, who recently spent time in Los Angeles to perform at the NAMN festival 2017 alongside St Vincent, before setting out on a short tour of the UK. Having travelled through and lived in many other countries, Spender has accrued quite the international following. Tonight that’s represented by a handful of fans who’ve come far and wide to see her play: notably Spain and New Zealand.
The music itself also tells a story. Spender’s lyrics are simplistic, but that’s okay because it’s her vocal tones that set the room alight with emotion. This girl can hit a note. Slipping effortlessly between soul and jazz, it’s a charm to see Mary play to such a large audience after all her hard work. She’s joined this evening by a backing band who look like they’ve been airlifted from the nearest indie club, dunked in a vat of groove, and told to pick up their instruments and get on with it. Undoubtedly they’re all very skilled, but there’s a tendency for all four musicians to come together and sound like something out of a 70s lizard lounge – when really that needn’t be the case: the songwriting is better than that.
Technicalities aside, a few songs show real promise and “Long Island City” proves a highlight thanks to a change in tempo and its Bob Dylan-esque narrative.
Clearly, the night goes down well with Mary Spender’s audience, who despite being seated take every opportunity to rub shoulders with the people next to them. Despite the wide demographic of people, there’s a sense of community in the air, which is something Spender harnesses like a pro. Returning for a solo set as an encore, she shows all the signs of a musician on the brink of commercial success.