Skip to content

Review: Faye Webster @ SWX

Hot off the release of her latest album, 2024's Undressed at the Symphony, Webster charmed the audience with a stage presence that was equal parts whimisical and vulnerable.

By Anna Dodd, Second Year, English Literature

Hailed for her witty lyricism and jazzy instrumental eccentricity, Faye Webster’s soft vocals breezily cruised through SWX’s sound system, face framed by her iconic wolf cut. Taking the success of her consistently critically acclaimed albums in her stride, Webster took to the stage of her largest Bristol venue yet – having previously performed at the more intimate Thekla.

First to greet the lively crowd was Webster’s companion Benét, who was immediately striking with his humour and eagerness to interact with fans lining the barricade, asserting he was on a mission to find the “biggest Faye Webster fan in each city". Not joined by a band, my expectations were exceeded in his deft ability to captivate the crowd’s attention.

As quickly as he was able to send ripples of laughter through the room, he just as effortlessly brought it to silence with his fully acoustic set, strumming thoughtfully, eyes closed. This musical softness comes at the cost of a restlessness that arose in his final songs, the crowd struggling to remain silent – and this is a hurdle Webster too, struggled to jump over.

Nonetheless, Benét effectively warmed up the crowd, who were put at ease by his enthusiasm and confidence. After the lights dimmed, the crowd bustled to the sound of '100' by Dean Blunt on the pre-show playlist, swarming back and forth with pints in hand, fully geared up for some eclectic easy listening tunes.

They were not kept waiting long, Webster swiftly joined her four-man band on stage to an orchestral arrangement as giant inflatable bust with illuminated eyes ominously rolled out to loom over Webster’s crooning. This served as an interesting set design choice, but when taking in her somewhat quirky and awkward persona that she has crafted her sound through, it somehow worked.

The setlist was curated around Webster’s latest release, Underdressed at the Symphony, opening with the single 'But Not Kiss'. This served as a strong choice to begin the night, with its abrupt repeating motif inviting crowd participation. With this buzz created, she then cooly moved on to 'Wanna Quit All the Time' and 'Thinking About You', two more B-sides that hit Spotify this year.

Beginning with three new songs felt apt, however there was a certain fieriness in the crowd that materialised with 'Right Side of My Neck'. Already a firm fan favourite, the song’s smooth blend of brass and strings burst into new life on stage, accompanied by Webster’s knowing smile as her fans sung back the longing refrain, “the right side of my neck still smells like you”.  

Benét @ SWX | Anna Dodd

The night continued with Webster showing off her musical prowess, jumping from instrument to instrument, bringing tracks such as 'Lego Ring' and 'Lifetime' from the new album into a developed sonic fullness outside of the studio. She was sure not to abandon her classics, the setlist was dispersed with singles from her previous records, and for better or for worse, have found success on Tik Tok.

Unlike Benét, she refrained from chatting with the crowd in-between songs, preferring to seamlessly flow through the setlist, letting the songs breezily blend into each other.

She took a brief interlude from the music in encouraging us to sing happy birthday to her bassist, Noor who blushed as she was met with a cake full of candles by Benét. This was a heartfelt moment that brought the crowd and the musicians on stage together in collective celebration.

Faye Webster @ SWX | Anna Dodd

The band took to their instruments once more, cruising through the setlist, though a sense of restlessness began to arise amongst the crowd. The airy nature of Webster’s sound, combined with her intricate lyrical quality comes at the cost of requiring silent and respectful listeners.

In the struggle to make out the verses she was singing, I noticed a part of what makes Webster’s craft so brilliant was lost in a live setting. Her witty quips and overall personal flair became somewhat lost over the instrumentation and bustling crowd, which was a shame.

'He Loves Me Yeah!' led into a standard encore, with Webster and her band rushing off stage as the lights dimmed. Greeted back with cheers, she was joined by her the bassist birthday girl to duet 'Feeling Good Today', a soft 1:26 minute track that experiments with a Vocoder to place a beautiful kind of emphasis on vocals.

Faye Webster @ SWX | Anna Dodd

The night ended on a high, with Webster’s much-loved 'Kingston', and all in all, the singer song writer’s visit back to Bristol with Benét in tow, was a sonically impressive, if subdued success.

Featured Image: Anna Dodd

Have you seen Faye Webster live before?