Punchy pop brilliance
Adam England
10:48 11th July 2021

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Starved of live music for the past year and a half? What better way to get back into things than partying with Gen-Z pop icon GIRLI in a sold-out (albeit socially distanced) Bush Hall on a Friday evening? Before the 23-year-old takes to the stage, a bustling crowd chats to the sounds of Olivia Rodrigo, Rina Sawayama, Dua Lipa and Paramore, getting them in the mood for a night of punchy pop brilliance. 

Kicking off with ‘Day Month Second’ is the perfect way to begin - the energy is electric despite the sedentary nature of the evening, with good vibes everywhere from the stage to the back of the room. Joined by fellow artist Faber, GIRLI’s explosive stage presence is a welcome sight after so long away, and reminds the world why she’s such a brilliant live artist.

“It’s good to be back,” she says, before going straight into ‘Has Been’. The audience join in with their energy matching GIRLI, bouncing off each other. She stomps around the stage, firmly owning it, as if she’s on top of the world to be back. There’s no one doing it like Girli right now. You might compare her no-fucks-given attitude to punk forebears like Poly Styrene or Ari Up, to Peaches or even to mullet-era Miley, but that would do her a disservice. Her mix of pop-punk-rap and riot grrrl-cum-new rave aesthetics is perfectly unique and a breath of fresh air.

In an age where fan clubs are a thing of the past - a relic filed away somewhere between Melody Maker and C86 in the history of popular music - GIRLI’s followers are a real community. The older tracks are received raucously: ‘Girl I Met On the Internet’ is itself met with hands in the air and huge cheers, while ‘Not That Girl’ gets the sort of reception that leads GIRLI to admit that she’s shy, the excitement in the room reaching fever pitch.

As the evening goes on, things get a bit more personal, GIRLI making the stage her own. Describing her music as like a series of diary entries, she ends up alone on stage and goes into ‘Friday Night Big Screen’, rows of fans all waving their phone torches in the air. Through ‘Neck Contour’ and latest release ‘Dysmorphia’ - a poignant, personal track - GIRLI owns the stage, before there’s a sneak peak of an unreleased song (cue more cheers) and, visibly moved by the sold-out venue, tells everyone that they’re “all so beautiful, don’t forget that.” 

We’re then back to the duo with a sparkling rendition of ‘Hot Mess’, a certified pop banger that lets everyone express themselves, while the mood rises further when GIRLI reveals that she’s got a new track coming out in a few weeks - and mentions the upcoming tour in November. Beating a heart-shaped piñata held aloft by Faber, Girli then throws roses into the crowd, before disappearing off stage. Requests for an encore don’t go ignored, and the night draws to a close with ‘Pink’, fans getting down in their seats before lifting their hands in the air. 

It’s striking how well Girli manages the crowd - at a sit-down gig like this one it could easily fall flat, but the atmosphere is electric, and it’s a joyous place to be, offering hope for the future after such a bleak eighteen months. If GIRLI and her fans were in power, this country would be in a better place. 

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Photo: Sara Irvine