Girl Ray – Green Door Store – 9th November 2017

Girl Ray – Green Door Store
Photo by Chris Middleton

It’s no surprise that the Girl Ray show tonight had completely sold out. They seemingly sprouted from nowhere and came out with one of 2017’s strongest albums. There’s huge applause when they walk on and quite rightly so. It’s almost surprising that they are playing a venue of this capacity, it’s an indication of how much they crept up out of nowhere. There was a buzz around the band since a major article in the Guardian on them and everyone was waiting for their release. When it did come it received praise across the board and the band, who were quite small at the time, found their way into a lot of people’s music collections. No doubt that Earl Grey will do very well on 2017’s album of the year polls. I know it’s on mine.

Live, Girl Ray like to mix it up a little and their songs don’t sound like direct cuts off the album. Girl Ray present the songs off Earl Grey at their core and there’s a vulnerability to the sound in this. Frontwoman Poppy Hankin seems quite bashful on stage and is very charming. Live ‘Stupid Things’ becomes more guitar-led than piano-led, which is the case for much of the set. This gives a window into how the songs were presumably written. It’s a very nice and probably logistically necessary part of their live show but it frames the songs in a new light and one you’re only going to get at their shows. Touches like that are things I really cherish in live shows, it’s the same music but presented slightly differently.

‘Preacher’ for me is the moment of the night that is completely perfect. Poppy takes to the acoustic guitar which fits her voice like a glove. She’s always downplayed herself as a vocalist in interviews but within Girl Ray’s sound you couldn’t ask for a better vocal. ‘Waiting Ages’ is another moment with stunning vocals on it, I wouldn’t have expected it in the live set either, which made a really nice touch. Girl Ray’s set list covers all bases really.

There’s one song which I don’t recognise and for the life of me can’t identify. It’s a song led by a riff which sounds like it could be a B-side to In Utero. It’s a sound unlike anything Girl Ray have done before and, whilst you wouldn’t expect it to, it’s a very nice fit. It’s moments like these which cement my opinion that Girl Ray are going to continue to thrive and make brilliant music. It’s taking a sound which is completely unlike anything you’d expect from them and doing it so well that keeps this faith alive in me.

A key component of Girl Ray’s sound is Sophie Moss’ bass playing which is the adhesive their sound needs. It’s very understated but it’s the key to their sound and is what makes everyone else sound so good. Take their early single ‘Trouble’, the song is all in the bass playing and it’s what keeps everything moving. Her rhythms are very subtle but very good and it’s a nice quirky sound which suits the rest of the band well.

Girl Ray do make an impact and have done from the start. Their punch though is slightly softer than you’d expect. Much like with their album Earl Grey I found the more I reflected and revisited the live show in my mind the more I realised how good it was. However you can just put an album back on if you’ve got a taste for more though. In this case, I’ll have to wait for another Girl Ray tour which may be some time. Seeing them play one of my favourite albums of the year live though will be an experience to tide me over till next time.

Chris Middleton