LIVE REVIEW: Gretta Ray at O2 Apollo, Manchester

Gretta Ray released her sophomore album this past Summer, it’s called Positive Spin, and it is adamantly a pop record in all caps. And it completely deserves that very description. This album has catapulted Ray’s career into new heights, it’s already seen her play her biggest headline shows yet in her home country of Australia as well as opening shows for the likes of Sam Fender and Maisie Peters (who Ray is currently touring with across the UK and Ireland). The time to know Gretta Ray’s music is now.

Joining Maisie Peters on a 13-show run, playing venues that range from Academy size to Arena size, would be a massive undertaking for any emerging artist, and for Gretta Ray, these tour dates mark the starting point in showcasing her music to the majority of these towns and cities. The O2 Apollo venue in Manchester is a 3500-capacity theatre, and as this was a first time visit to the city it was a very large space to play for a first introduction. The show sold out in advance, too. No pressure or anything. And it must be said, no pressure was given on the night. The audience was present and ready for the show to begin, and immediately gave their support. Ray played a half-hour’s worth of music and it was enthusiastically enjoyed. Participation and love echoed from both sides of the stage.

This performance was, albeit stripped back for a Gretta Ray show, in terms of production value and scope, due to the finite nature of an opening slot. The fact that there was no band present was highly visible (though, Gab Strum really is a fantastic musician to share a stage with, so, conclusively, the musicality did not suffer due to personnel constraints). But, regardless of everything mentioned here, this was a brilliant way to be introduced to Gretta Ray and her catalogue of shining stars, even though this performance did lack the versatility of which her recent Australian headline tour wielded, the matter of this did not overwhelm due to the amazing talent Ray actually, really, is. She commanded every bit of that stage and was a joy to watch while doing so, so many already knew the words and joined in and danced and celebrated. It felt like a special occasion.

All of the songs on the setlist this night were big pop moments, even the quietest of the pack, ‘Dear Seventeen,’ was showered in its pop credentials. In many ways, ‘Dear Seventeen’ is destined to be regarded just as classic and as peerless as ‘Tim McGraw’ is for Taylor Swift. It’s an acoustic ballad, confessional and written from a personal perspective, but rather than zoning in on just one focus point, Ray’s ‘Dear Seventeen’ encompasses multiple years of her life’s stories. It’s a feat of musical engineering, her lyrics are reeled off so casually yet the delivery of them takes the exactness of a very smart writer-singer to perform such a composition with the emphasis, wit and depth that Ray does, and does so well.

Maisie Peters cites Gretta Ray as “one of my favourite songwriters” while on stage during the headline set, and it is easy to see why: Ray’s songs are incredibly well put together, every element—be it, lyric, production, tone, intention, vocal—is all carefully considered. The artistry is perfected and fine tuned, her stories are moving because of their honesty and true life relatabilty, and because, truly, the music is so instinctively catchy—see immediate earworm, ‘Don’t Date the Teenager’ as a standout example of this. What’s particularly clever about that song, is its subtle referencing of another, ‘Drive’—her earliest hit and the longest living testament to her songwriting genius.

There’s a lineage of songwriters and performers that have followed the rise of Taylor Swift. A new generation raised on her gospel that carry with them a passion for writing self-penned, autobiographical tell-alls, stories inspired by real life heartbreaks and learning moments. And while it’s highly unreasonable and unfair to class any artist in a grouping or company, the influence and impact that Taylor Swift has set in motion is impossible not to acknowledge. While Gretta Ray’s artistic style is very much of her own making and creation, Ray has expressed her own personal admiration for Swift’s songs and career, and even more notably, Ray name-drops Swift in her own music in the most heartfelt of ways. Ultimately, this is what music does best: bringing people together and inspiring generations to come.

The music that Gretta Ray has created up to this point, is the kind that encourages bonds to be made and ever-lasting connections to be formed, it is pop music so strong that inevitably it may just start an obsession. It is high-quality song craft that is so smart in its formation that it can’t be left on the back-burner, it has to be learnt, revised and sung back at full lung capacity, it’s sort of pop music which sparks the kind of pure fandom that before a show arrives outfits are thought-out in advance and worn in accordance to the album’s colours and themes, it is the creation of handmade bracelets shared with the artist and worn by all; it’s an all-in type of lifestyle—the personification of true, undiluted, unparalleled connection. A rare, glorious thing.

Gretta Ray is opening on all of Maisie Peters’ UK/IE dates, which run till 3rd of November culminating in London at OVO Arena Wembley. A Gretta Ray headline show is also booked in for Tuesday, 7th November in London at The Lower Third. Gretta Ray’s new album, Positive Spin, is out now – available to Stream/Purchase here.

Photo Credit: shot.byluke

Find Gretta Ray on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Charlotte Holroyd
Editor, Creator and Founder of Bitter Sweet Symphonies. A lover of music and cinema, who's constantly attending gigs and in search of a great experience.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.