Gig Review: Freya Ridings at Rock City

Words: Kevin Stanley
Photos: Ellisha
Monday 16 October 2023
reading time: min, words

With top-ten single Lost Without You under her belt, singer-songwriter Freya Ridings is fast-becoming a household name. Following the release of her sophomore studio album Blood Orange, the Castles singer embarks on a string of autumn UK tour dates, making a stop at Nottingham's Rock City...

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First on stage for the evening is Ewan Phillips. For anyone who doesn’t know – which included myself – Phillips and Freya Ridings got married in early 2023. Phillips has never toured before and although unaccustomed to such a large audience he performs well and gets plenty of support and applause from the generous Rock City audience.

Next up are three brothers from Devon who go by the name of The Tors. These three likable lads get a good bit of audience participation going on and even encourage the audience to light up their mobile phones to create a sea of waving lights. This sort of thing used to involve cigarette lighters but since indoor smoking has long been banned, this type of activity at gigs now has a modern-day tech twist – it still works.

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Freya Ridings is the headline act of the night. I’ve seen her perform before, back in 2018, when she supported Ray Lamontagne. On that night at City Hall in Sheffield Ridings simply sat at a piano and delivered a short set of stunning songs full of heartache and passion. She was spellbinding. A single, powerful voice, and keys.

Tonight, five years later Ridings is dressed in a golden shimmering sequin top and a long black skirt, with boots. She takes centre stage – accompanied by a seven-piece band including saxophone, trumpet and trombone – and it’s clear she is the star.

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Ridings opens her set with the upbeat Dancing in a Hurricane and Weekends. She plays guitar and dances throughout, swinging her long red hair from side to side. She sings with utter conviction. She has such an impressive voice and vocal range.

The first half of the set includes Bite Me, Bitter and Whither on the Vine all songs that suit guitar with a band supporting her. But it’s in the second half of the set when she sits at the piano, centre stage, picked out by a twinkling spotlight that Ridings really impresses. The quieter and introspective Face in the Crowd and Ultraviolet are stunning. And less feels more when it’s just Ridings on her own.

The band rejoin Ridings for Blood Orange to round out the main set complete with audience interaction. Only two songs could really make up the encore. Lost Without You - which she has expressed difficulties in playing as she never thought something so personal and heartbreaking would be sung back to her by hundreds of people. Ridings leaves everyone on a high with the high tempo disco hit Castles. It’s a great way to finish an electric set.

Freya Ridings performed at Rock City on 8 October 2023.

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