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Vic Allen, The Water Rats, London live review

Vic Allen has been touted as one of the ‘most exciting artists in the UK’ by the likes of Matt Spracklen, winning recognition for her acoustic-driven sound with modern country touches. She’s also performed at Country Music Week and as part of the UK version of Song Suffragettes, and her songs have been played on Absolute Radio Country and BBC radio stations. Last month she released her long-awaited debut album, ‘Some Place I’d Rather Be’, which she celebrated with a headline show at London’s Water Rats venue last night.

Accompanied by her three-piece band, Allen arrived on stage to cheers and applause before launching into album opener ‘Enough’. It’s an upbeat, driving number which sees her reflecting on working towards her goal of being a musician and wanting to escape from everyday life. Her sweet, smooth vocals glided over the guitar melody and by the end of the song the singalong chorus was firmly wedged in my head. I loved the summery feel of the track too – this is definitely one I can see ringing out at festivals in the next few months.

Over the next hour and 20 minutes, Allen took us through the record, peppering the breaks between her songs with stories about making the album and cracking jokes about adjusting her mic stand and leaving her water bottle backstage. She had a really engaging stage presence that made it very easy to warm to her and by the end of the show you felt like you’d been in the company of an old friend who leaves you feeling refreshed and energised whenever you spend time with them. It’s clear her fans are very loyal and she repaid that in spades, frequently pausing to thank the crowd for coming along.

One thing which really stood out to me throughout Allen’s performance was the theme of travel. Songs like ‘Barcelona’, an atmospheric rock-influenced ode to a long-distance relationship, and her spin on a tribute to London, ‘Ghost Town’, really captured the sense of place and the fleetingness of falling in love on the road. For me the best example of this was the heartfelt ‘Confetti’, a wistful, atmospheric track which saw Allen yearning for a lover about to leave her life and trying to hold back from falling for them. Elsewhere in the set, I loved the quiet strength of breakup recovery songs ‘I Can’ and ‘Healing’ and the playful, high-energy ‘Drive-Thru’, with its 70s rock-influenced melody and story of ‘a boy and a starry-eyed girl’ falling in love in a car.

For me the standout song in the set was ‘Pictures Of You’, about the breakup of a short relationship and Allen’s realisation she and her partner had no photos of them together. The gentle, acoustic ballad gets the rawness of the immediate aftermath of a split and trying to find consolation in the small things absolutely spot on, and I loved the dreamy quality Allen brought to the song. You could also really feel the emotion in every line as she sang – I’m not afraid to admit I definitely shed a tear.

As well as tracks from the album, Allen also played some brand new tracks, including ‘Change My Mind’ – which balanced a midtempo melody with lyrics about the experience of anxiety – and showed off the piano playing skills she’d picked up in lockdown on ‘Different Things’. Despite calling it ‘the scariest thing I’ve ever done’, she delivered a strong performance on the wistful breakup song and you genuinely wouldn’t know it was her first time playing the instrument in public.

That said, there was also plenty of room for older tracks like ‘Without You Here’, a yearning acoustic song from Allen’s 2016 EP ‘The Missing Piece’, the sharp, punchy ‘Bittersweet’ (which definitely lived up to its name) and the clipped, pop-influenced ‘Talk’. She also threw in a cover of the Goo Goo Dolls’ 90s hit ‘Iris’ that had the crowd singing along in full voice!

Allen closed her set with ‘Borrowed Time’, another rock-influenced travel song that told the story of a breakup on a beach. I loved how vivid it was, from the colour of the sky to the lights on the water, as well as the raw honesty in her lyrics. The crowd roared their demands for another song and it wasn’t long before she and the band were back on stage performing ‘Suitcase’ for the encore. It’s a jangly, 90s indie-influenced tribute to the joys of travel and for me really summed up her style with its optimistic feel, love of being on the road, soaring vocals and lyrical details. The crowd burst into applause and cheers when she finished and afterwards she could be spotted by the merch table chatting to fans.

Overall I felt Vic Allen delivered a great set that showed off the details and storytelling in her writing, as well as her love of life on the road and her skill at conveying the emotion in a song. She had a really positive energy on stage too and a fantastic connection with the audience, as well as great confidence and a strong sense of fun. During the show she frequently talked about wanting to celebrate the release of this record, and the whole set definitely had that feeling about it. It was a really joyful evening and I predict that on the strength of this and the new album, there’s big things ahead for her in the future.

Set list: 1. Enough 2. Barcelona 3. I Can 4. Confetti 5. Pictures Of Us 6. Iris (Goo Goo Dolls cover) 7. Without You Here 8. Ghost Town 9. Change My Mind 10. Different Things 11. Talk 12. Healing 13. Bittersweet 14. Drive Thru 15. Borrowed Time Encore: 16. Suitcase Performance date: 31st January 2023

Laura Cooney
Laura Cooney
Laura has been writing for Entertainment Focus since 2016, mainly covering music (particularly country and pop) and television, and is based in South West London.

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Vic Allen has been touted as one of the 'most exciting artists in the UK' by the likes of Matt Spracklen, winning recognition for her acoustic-driven sound with modern country touches. She's also performed at Country Music Week and as part of the UK...Vic Allen, The Water Rats, London live review