In a time when the internet and modern technology has splintered the music audience down to every possible genre, surprisingly, the conventional wisdom still holds: hit singles equal crowds. Clean Bandit has had quite a few, Zara Larsson (the nineteen year old pop star from Sweden) has had any number of worldwide hits, even opener Starley seems to have dented the airways judging by the crowd response she got on Saturday night, April 22nd at Union Transfer. The upshot of all this was a sold-out Union Transfer and a most receptive packed house.
Singer-songwriter Starley went first. Starley Hope hails from Sydney, Australia and she defines her genre as "basically just whatever I feel at the time. I write about my life... ;)". Her debut single "Call On Me" reached the top ten Down Under as well as all over Europe. In Sweden it reached number one.
She played a quite listenable set of mostly originals plus a nice cover of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car". Her second to last song was "Into You". She was the featured singer on this Odd Mob single, which also had its share of chart success. Following that, Starley told a very personal story about pursuing a music career in London. She was writing songs for others because she supposedly didn't fit the profile of a lead singer. Starley talked about grappling with her weight, even thoughts of suicide, leading to an obsession with going to the gym and giving up music to became a personal trainer. Eventually, she wound up back in Australia with a new found singing career. Her message was "never give up on your dreams". That said, she ended her set with "Call On Me", with a good assist from the crowd who sang along. Atlantic City Beats posted a video of Starley doing "Call On Me".
Swedish pop sensation Zara Larsson was next. Larsson first gained notoriety for her singing at the age of ten when she won the Swedish equivalent of America's Got Talent. In 2013 (when she was fifteen), her first Swedish EP, Introducing, sold a million copies in the first month; six months in, it had gone triple platinum. Her second Swedish EP, Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself, was also released in 2013 with similar results. Now at the age of nineteen, Zara Larsson is a true phenom; everything she releases goes platinum in Sweden. She is huge in Denmark and Norway, too, with increasing worldwide popularity.
Larsson's many hit singles populated both her set and her international debut album, released this past March. They included "Never Forget You", "Ain't My Fault", "I Would Like", "So Good", and "Lush Life", much to the delight of the capacity crowd. In addition, she sang several covers of songs by Tinie Tempah, David Guetta, and Ed Sheeran; when she said Sheeran's name, she got a huge crowd reaction. Atlantic City Beats posted three videos from Larsson's set; click to watch. "It Ain't My Fault", "I Would Like", and "I Know What Boys Like". The beats were pounding, and the synths were soaring for a sound so loud that it made the floor physically vibrate (the heavy duty sound may have been needed to drown out the din coming from the audience). The vocals were nicely mixed to be loud and clear on top of the pulsating pop. Zara was well loved by the crowd who sang along to many of her songs. Her set did not contain "Symphony", but she returned to the stage during Clean Bandit's set to sing it.
Clean Bandit took the stage with their 2017 touring configuration of original members Grace Chatto on cello, percussion and vocals, Jack Patterson on keyboard and electronic clarinet, and Luke Patterson on drums, plus Stephanie Benedetti on violin, Kristin Child and Yasmin Green on vocals.
Clean Bandit's main draw is their uniqueness, the way they stretch classical music until it becomes pop, and then they put a dance beat to it. That together with excellence in songwriting, arrangements, and production, with a series of guest vocalists, begins to explain their popularity. So far, their recording career consists of one full length album New Eyes (2014), three EPs, and at least nine singles including their current hits "Symphony" feat. Zara Larsson and "Rockabye" feat. Sean Paul & Anne-Marie.
"Rockabye" was #1 in the UK for a total of nine weeks, including seven consecutive weeks during which it also earned the coveted Christmas number one honor for 2016. On their debut album, Clean Bandit worked with a number of guest vocalists: Rae Morris, Jess Glynne, Sharna Bass, Noonie Bao, Kandaka Moore, Nikki Cislyn, Stylo G, Javeon, Love Ssega, Elisabeth Troy, Lizzo, and Eliza Shaddad. Jess Glynne was the vocalist on their other UK #1 hit, "Rather Be", a crowd favorite that closed the show at Union Transfer. Both "Rather Be" and "Rockabye" charted top ten in the US. The live version of "Rockabye" featured Kristin (supported by Yasmin) sounding so good that nothing was lost in the absence of Sean Paul and Anne-Marie. The same goes for "Rather Be".
Performing live, Clean Bandit did not disappoint with virtually every song seeming like a highlight. Check out the setlist below and click on the song titles to watch their Union Transfer performance.
Even though it was louder than loud, the sound mix was excellent with every instrument clearly heard. The two singers, Yasmin and Kristin, were both phenomenal. Songs, which on record featured other vocalists, sounded great in their hands. Zara Larsson returned to the stage to sing on "Symphony" and the crowd loved it.
They ended their set with "Real Love", while at the same time receiving plenty of same from the crowd. This brought them back for a two song encore culminating with "Rather Be", which got the full audience sing-along treatment.
There seemed to be complete audience cross-over between Zara Larsson and Clean Bandit. Starley also held a great deal of appeal for this audience. This was another fine night of music at Union Transfer.
Photo: Clean Bandit's Instagram "Chilly Fease Cakes ! ! !"
I may not be in the target demographic for this music. I thought we'd get another opinion from someone who is. Take it away, Breanne.
Starley: I was not familiar with this artist before going to the concert; in fact, I did not even realize that she would be an opener! However, after listening to a few of her songs, I feel as though she was the perfect person to open the show. She had wonderful stage presence and brought so much energy to her performance. She definitely looks like the stage is where is she is meant to be. Vocally, I found her voice to be very soulful and sultry, with a lower register that was particularly strong. When she began to sing "Call on Me", i immediately recognized it as being a song I frequently listen to Spotify without knowing who sings it. It received a huge reaction from the crowd, rightfully so as it is a song with both a catchy melody and inspirational lyrics.Many thanks to Breanne Pottie the second opinion. Many thanks to Union Transfer for the booking and the powerful sound and lighting. Thanks also to Beverly Kates for camera work and to Lindsey Mitchell for video production.
Zara Larsson: Zara has been one of my favorite up and coming artists for a while now, so I was understandably very excited to see her perform live. Having heard from several people that her live performances are amazing, she definitely lived up to my expectations. Though she sang several catchy songs and made the show a lot of fun to watch, I was most impressed by the strength and maturity of her voice. I feel as though she could take any song and sing it well. Her voice never waivers, despite doing choreographed dancing the majority of the set. I can definitely see her becoming a household name in the near future.
Clean Bandit: Going into the concert, I only knew a few of their more popular songs (Rockabye, Rather Be, and most recently, Symphony), but this show made me a huge fan. Being a violinist, I love listening to classical music, so this classical crossover group (which I didn't even realize was a musical genre) was right up my alley. I feel like any time string instruments are included in pop songs, it adds so much depth and beauty. The two singers, Kristen and Jasmine, each brought something different to the table and really did the original songs justice.
Overall, I had a wonderful time at the show! I felt that the three groups complimented each other perfectly. My favorite part of the concert, by far, was when Zara Larsson and Clean Bandit joined forces to play "Symphony", their newest single. I am absolutely obsessed with this song right now and have been playing it on repeat for the past few weeks, so it was amazing to see it played live. I haven't been to a great deal of concerts, but of all the ones I have been to, this was by far my favorite. I can't wait to see what each of these three artists come out with next!
Thanks again to Atlantic City Beats for the additional videos.
Watch Clean Bandit & Zara Larsson - Symphony
01. UK Shanty
04. Symphony (with Zara Larsson)
06. Heart on Fire (Courtesy of Atlantic City Beats)
09. Come Over
11. Telephone Banking
12. Should've Known Better
13. Piece of You
14. Real Love
15. Tears(with band introductions)
16. Rather Be
The day before Union Transfer, they played Webster Hall in NYC. Watch Clean Bandit with Zara Larsson perform "Symphony" on LIVE with Kelly on 4/21/2017
Watch Clean Bandit perform "Rather Be" on Elvis Duran Live on 3/8/2017
Watch Clean Bandit with Jess Glynne perform "Rather Be On" on Later with Jools Holland on 5/10/14
Clean Bandit's Website
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Zara Larsson's Website
Zara Larsson's Facebook
Zara Larsson's Twitter
Zara Larsson's Instagram