Vada favourite, 18 year old Lauren Aquilina, is on the cusp of something quite magnificent. With the (self) release of her third EP, Liars, scheduled for March 10th and the news of her signing to Island Records, things don’t seem to be slowing down for the Bristol born London based singer songwriter. As she prepares for the closing chapter of her first musical trilogy, it seems only fitting that my pieces are split into three also – namely an EP review, interview and, today, a live review.
Aquilina has garnered plenty of much deserved attention over the past few years – from YouTube covers to original songs, from crowds of 80 to 1000, from 25 views to three self-released EPs, this pop star is just about ready to explode. Lauren promises that she has already begun work on her debut album but it’s Liars, her newest creation, that has her fanbase excited. With three sold out tours under her belt, Aquilina is no stranger to performing live and recently headlined the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading & Leeds.
And so, on a bitter Sunday evening, I made my way to the famous Thekla in Bristol, a moored boat come club come live venue come hipster hangout. I opted to come alone because it felt like a grown up thing to do. I could stay focussed on my review as well as not having to hide any emotional reaction to these cripplingly sad/wonderful songs. In the dirty boat filled with more older men than you’d think, given that an 18 year old girl was about to play, the impatient adolescent murmurs were silenced by the promise of imminent activity. Having just dropped a video featuring all four brand new tracks from “Liars”, the crowd were keen to have a first listen to this exclusive material. I took my place at the bar, equipped with my deceivingly heterosexual wild berry cider, and peered over the shoulders of the lanky and fidgety crowd. This is what happened next.
20:41 Honestly, the ratio of beards to boobs here is unbelievable.
20:41 Oh god, I’ve made too much eye contact. Note to self: hone hungover people watching skills another time.
20:42 My hangover is kicking in now? Ideal. Just got to hold this chicken burger down for an hour, Mitch. 60 minutes. You can do it.
20:44 For an 8:20 stage time, this isn’t looking great.
20:45 Oh there’s the teenagers.
20:48 Hang on, there’s some rumbling and screaming. I think she’s here.
20:48 She’s here.
20:48 “Sinners“, good opener. It’s filled with all the echoes and whispers of the studio version. Big drums are a nice added touch.
20:51 Yeah, that was really good.
20:52 Straight into “King” A HELLO WOULD BE NICE.
20:52 “Glass half empty, glass half full – well either way you won’t be going thirsty. Count your blessings, not your flaws” Very good lyric.
20:53 There’s a mouthy lesbian behind me and I’m just about ready to turn around and look disapproving.
20:54 “Hello everyone, how are you tonight?” Oh, she’s done this before.
20:55 NEW SONG ALERT this is not a drill. “Square One“.
20:56 This is a good song. She’s tinkling those ivories a treat. Sounds very Aquilina but still somehow feels fresh. She’s onto a winning formula with these songs.
20:59 “Lilo” now, back to her roots. Angsty song and she says “fuck” in it too but it’s really good all the same.
21:01 Here comes the good bit. I wish people would stop talking.
21:03 “Ugly Truth” still sounds like the best single Taylor Swift never released.
21:05 This version is really bouncy and poppy. She’s doing well and everyone seems to be genuinely interested.
21:07 She’s stood up?! Big song alert, “Talk To Me“. Diva moment imminent.
21:08 This is a turnaround point in the gig, I can feel it. Very big notes, girl can sing.
21:10 Everyone is deadly silent. She’s making this look effortless. Evidently, the nasal spray she used before is working wonders.
21:11 “This is a mash up”
21:12 Oh bollocks, someone has literally collapsed next to me. Do I remember the recovery position? She’s in a pile on the floor. I should probably help. Nobody’s really doing anything.
21:14 First Aid are ‘en route’. Lauren’s still singing. This is all a bit much.
21:14 Collapsing Coleen is laughing, she’s alright. Aquilina is absolutely smashing “Wonder“. It’s a sad song to narrate a bit of a sad situation over here at the back. Very meta.
21:16 We’ve got some small talk, a bit of audience interaction. Hang on, shut up, there’s another new song alert. She doesn’t want anyone to film it.
21:17 It’s “Broke“. “Just when you thought I couldn’t get any sadder, I came out with this”. Attending the gig alone was a good idea after all.
21:19 Yep, this is sad. It’s got 90s written all over it and that’s never a bad thing. “It’s not that I don’t want you, it’s just I don’t know how to love you like I used to – so intense and so profound. If I could change my feelings, I would forfeit all my bones because your love is worth a fortune but my heart’s already broke”. Highlight.
21:20 “Those hardest to love need it most”. A little hark back to her first single, nice touch.
21:21 She’s thanking her band and her fans. It feels genuine and heartfelt. Kudos.
21:22 Last song my ass. “Lovers or Liars” is wonderful but we’re waiting for “Fools” Lauren, don’t play with us like this.
21:23 This has 90s written all over it too. Very Annie Lennox-esque. It sounds a bit like “Youth” by Foxes too. It’s the drums.
21:25 Aaannd she’s gone.
21:27 Aaaaaaaaaand she’s back. “Go on then, guys”.
21:28 She’s singing Bruno Mars and absolutely everyone is okay with that.
21:31 This is a hard song but she’s got it. Even the big bits.
21:32 “This is the actual last song. I want to meet and hug every single one of you in this room. I’ll be over there in a minute. This song is called “Fools“. Thank you for everything and goodnight.” SWOON.
21:33 Aquilina is having a good time up there. It’s genuinely lovely to see.
21:36 Bouncy, poppy, jumpy. She sang, we sang back, it was great. I’m debating sticking around to say hello and take an awkward selfie for this review. We’ll see how it goes.
21:46 Turns out all the moody teens were at the front. They’re dressed better and look older than me. I’m still alone at the bar, 5 years older than the average fan, looking like a true threat to society. There’s a lot of people here, I might leave. Would have to fight through the crowds either way. Rock and a hard place. Going mad.
21:48 Cider is gone. Crowd is not dwindling.
21:49 Hot now. Glad I’m wearing white.
21:55 Is this really worth it for an awkward hug and an ugly selfie?
22:35 Bus is late. Here’s your selfie, Vada.
23:18 Phone ran out of battery, pen ran out of ink. Goodnight world.
Lauren Aquilina was wonderful. To sing songs as bold and courageous as hers is one thing but to play piano and, more importantly, retain the interest of a huge crowd is another. At 18, Aquilina shows bountiful skill and dedication to her craft – 3 EPs later and her fanbase only continues to grow. She won’t be staying at these venues for long, especially with an EP as promising as “Liars” and her first professional foray into the music industry. It was a fantastic show and what made it special was just how grateful and humbled the starlet was: on the final night of her sell out tour, she came home to the warmest welcome. The future looks bright for Aquilina and she deserves every ounce of success that she’ll inevitably find.
Stay tuned for an interview with the woman herself later in the week as well as an EP review when Liars is released, March 10th.
Lauren Aquilina’s previous EPs, Fools and Sinners are both available now.