I’ve been listening to Girl in Red via the magic of streaming for a while, but I’d never caught a live performance, and initial impressions were surprising: it’s a dark tent, a black stage, a black background and Girl in Red and her band all in black. Luckily the lighting provides some colour (red natch), and clearly the music is going to do the talking here… (we shall return to this at the end, there is a conclusion to this…)
…and it really does. The energy starts high, the lyrics are angry, the singing is bold and clear and full of righteous anger, and you really wouldn’t want to be the “stupid bitch” being mentioned because the sheer force will turn you to ash. Girl In Red is the stage name of Marie Ulven Ringheim, and after the first song the jumper comes off and there’s more black. Okay. Marie speaks to the crowd about not being able to sing, clearly agitated, but performing the songs with power and verve. As an audience we get the sense something’s happening behind the scenes, and Marie has tapped into it to power her through. The songs are brilliantly different in sound, but Marie’s not happy with the staging, wanting us closer, wanting more energy, more interaction, why is there a big gap she asks? The crowd want to give her back that fire.
Marie pauses at one point to say she’s putting the sets two “sad lesbian songs” next to each other today, so we assume that pairing will be on YouTube by the night’s end. “Have you had enough lesbian songs” she asks? “No!” the crowd emphatically replies. They’d go for this all day. Mind you, when she moves seamlessly into ‘Serotonin’ next the light gets a little darker as we deal with suicidal ideation and mental health in as honest a way as you’ll find in song. Completely cathartic. Maybe that’s why the visuals are so downbeat.
Towards the end, Marie gets down and goes right to the audience, demands people put their phones down and their hands up and proceeds to crowd surf, and is actually returned politely to the stage after a sensible amount of time. Truly a lovely audience, who are a bit confused at the end when Marie organises the politest ‘wall of death’ ever (it’s a mosh pit).
The tempo continues to vary, as more of her signature sad songs come through and there’s some technical guitar issues which slows no one down at all. And then, an explanation: Marie explains a lot of people dress fancy and make trash music, but she’s going to dress down and make great music. There’s no better summation of this set: energetic, touching, endless energy and genuine sadness and tension. Weird to go into the sun after this.