By Rae Ferner-Rose, Second Year Liberal Arts
The TikTok sensation who has built an impressive fan base after the recent release of her debut album, Amelia, brought an energetic vibe and stunning vocals to her set at the Academy.
I am standing in the queue with my friend Anna. The number of people between us and the door seemed endless, stretching round in an endless coil. The demographic of the show was clear. There were girls everywhere. Small girls, tall girls, young girls, girls of every shape and size. The only exception to the rule was a spotting of obliging boyfriends and reluctant dads. Girls have long been underappreciated as one of the largest groups of cultural consumers of music. Standing there surrounded by girls - chatting, laughing, buzzing with anticipation and excitement - I was aware that I didn’t want to perpetuate the same boring misogynistic stereotypes about artists who create ‘breakup’ music for young women.
Too often do groups and artists with a majority female fan base – male and female – get mocked by critics for being superficial, surface level, insubstantial. Mimi Webb was brought acclaim by TikTok, ‘a product of the algorithm’ through and through. But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Her debut album Amelia was packed with heart, her vocals undeniably accomplished, all the ingredients for an excellent performance were there. With all this in mind I tried to banish the dismissive critic in my head telling me this was ‘just another pop performance’ to pack in with all the others.
Unfortunately, Webb did not deliver the killer performance I hoped she might, she just didn’t do another to allay those doubts I had going in. The hour set she gave seemed a little stingy. Although Webb’s vocal performance was on the most part flawless, the whole set felt choreographed right down to the intermittent chatting with the audience. It is difficult to tell whether Webb will grow into a more relaxed stage presence with experience. The show felt stiff, impersonal, and because of this it was difficult to create a sense of intimacy between performer and audience that is key to a meaningful experience.
The crowd was a sea of phones, as is expected of most gigs now, but there also seemed to be a proverbial screen between the stage and the audience. I couldn’t help but think that Webb was focused on creating ‘content’ more than really engaging with the crowd. Every move seemed executed to a precise schedule, the calls out of ‘is everybody ok?’ and ‘is everyone drinking water?’ felt a little forced as well. I could see how years of practicing in front of a tripod to create manicured dances had translated onto the stage. It was difficult to feel connected to Webb on any kind of deeper level and in turn the performance seemed to lack authenticity.
An exceptional moment in the performance did come, however, when Webb eschewed her precise choreography for ‘Amelia’ the title track of her debut. Webb instead, sat on the stage with just her guitarist, for the soft ballad, a refreshing moment for sure. The intimacy created on stage seemed to rub of on the audience who seemed to relax into the music – some of the phones seemed to disappear too – which was telling. This particular moment to an extent confirmed my suspicions; Webb is strongest when she harnesses her natural charisma and stunning vocal talent and allows herself freedom from the crowd’s expectations of perfect ‘content.’
Featured image: Rae Ferner Rose
Have you seen Mimi Webb live?