Music Editor Isabelle Porter reviews Leith Ross’s show at the O2 Institute, commending the singer-songwriter’s captivating performance and the concert’s laid-back atmosphere

Written by Isabelle Porter
Music Editor

This past Wednesday, a line outside the Birmingham O2 Institute snaked for blocks. The Digbeth venue bustled with fans awaiting gigs by Lancey Fox and, like me, Canadian singer-songwriter Leith Ross. Past the sparkling chandeliers in the lobby, stepping down to the ground floor venue felt like entering a secret club. The room was filled with a crowd of young people, the space itself punctuated by industrial support beams.

Leith Ross’s show in Birmingham was the first U.K. stop on the autumn leg of their inaugural headlining tour. Having originally achieved virality in the TikTok singer-songwriter scene in 2021 with their poignant song ‘We’ll Never Have Sex’, they released their debut album To Learn this past spring. Opening for them were Kennedy Mann and Begonia, two artists who complemented Ross’s acoustic stylings and wistful confessionalism. Begonia in particular kept the crowd rapt with her wry sense of humour and a commanding performance; her acrobatic vocal stylings drew repeated cheers from the crowd.

An energy came over the audience as if they knew they were seeing something special and did not want to miss a moment

Smaller shows with multiple openers naturally seem to have a relaxed feeling, and this was definitely the case at Ross’s show. The crowd went wild when Ross came onstage or finished a song, but otherwise, were quietly rapt. An energy came over the audience as if they knew they were seeing something special and did not want to miss a moment. Some sang along in a low voice, creating an emotive echo which flickered across the crowd.

Ross played a mix of tracks from their first project, Motherwell, as well as To Learn, including ‘Tommy’ and ‘Music Box’. The double singles ‘I’d Have To Think About It’ and ‘Monogamy’ were particular crowd favourites. Throughout the show, the bass from the concurrent gig upstairs thundered ominously at quiet moments, making Ross and the audience laugh. This moment turned to a kind of inside joke as the concert went on and we collectively burst out laughing at knowing moments.

The show was warm and laid-back, like hanging out with a friend

This conversational atmosphere made the show a cosy experience. Ross and the crowd sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to their bandmate and the audience broke out into a dance party towards the end of the show for the sweet song ‘(You) On My Arm’. Ross proved that a setlist does not have to be stacked with high-energy tracks to create a fun concert-going experience. The show was warm and laid-back, like hanging out with a friend — if your friend was a talented singer-songwriter with a set of devastating and richly imagined folk songs under their belt.

Over the past few years, TikTok has created a unique space for new artists to introduce themselves and their work directly to listeners. Most of Ross’s audience (present company included) likely first encountered their music via an acoustic performance on a For You Page. Watching Ross conclude the show with a stunning solo rendition of ‘We’ll Never Have Sex’, it was impressive to see this sense of intimacy carried over to a concert venue. Leith Ross’s connection with their audience was effortless; it will be exciting to see where their career takes them next.

Enjoyed this? You might also enjoy:

Live Review: The Japanese House

Single Review: Sigrid – Ghost

Album Review: Maple Glider – I Get Into Trouble