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Live Review: Bic Runga – Wednesday 18th April 2012 – Shepherds Bush Empire, London, UK

4 min read

Among the flood of pop super-groups and chart topping divas that have announced tours this year, New Zealand’s most successful female musical export fell back into the fold last night after a six year absence with a performance at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire. Bic Runga gained international acclaim with her signature 1997 hit, Sway, which was followed by a long string of favorable singles and chart gracing studio albums that quickly established the Christchurch-born singer as one of the most influential talents to emerge from the small island country.

Following the release of Sway, Runga set her sights firmly on the international market and gained a reputation as a well sought after songwriter and had several of her songs placed within soundtracks for some of the biggest movie releases of the nineties including American Pie. The singer also scored herself a New Zealand Order of Merit from the Queen in 2006 for her contributions to the music industry.

Having been convinced by her new manager to take to the road once again, it was the capital that was given a musical treat as the star took to the stage of the West London venue in support of her latest record Belle, the first record for the singer since 2005’s Birds and her dedicated British and London based fans were clearly excited at the return of Runga as they chanted her name before the singer glided onto the stage at just after 9pm to a welcoming applause.

Taking her place alone on the stage Runga lept straight into her set beginning with a number of pennings from Belle that instantly displayed the raw talent help within the petite songstress. Her voice was pristine and couldn’t be faulted as she hit some sultry lows and some impressive and syrupy highs with flawless accuracy as her vocals vibrated through the Empire’s intimate confines.

Among the set of new additions to the Runga catalogue, the singer threw in all of her hits that have, over the years, solidified her status as a highly successful musician. Drive was thrown into the beginning of the set and the crowd erupted as soon as the first chords were played out to the near sold out venue, immediately setting the laid back mood for the evening. Further hits including the incredible Something Good and the commercially successful Get Some Sleep found their place in the centre of the set forming a beautiful filling to the performance.

Throughout the night Runga seemed clearly nervous and also pointed in out through she offered a reason for the nerves. That reason, she said, was that music icon and Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page was within the crowd to see Runga’s performance and her return to the London stage. She soon fell back into momentum and continued to perform a stunning set which included the summery Hello Hello, the lead single from Belle and the sweet Tiny Little Piece Of My Heart. Further past hits also snuggled themselves into the later half of the set with Bursting Through proving to be an obvious highlight with Runga’s gorgeously textured and matured vocals ringing throughout the venue as she swayed through a melody of delicate peaks.

Describing Sway as a song that haunts her but helps to pay the bills, the singers most successful and internationally known single was delivered to the crowd with numerous sections of the audience heard singing along with the singer as she floated sweetly through the tracks hook-laden and radio friendly chorus’.

It’s a real shame that Runga doesn’t tour as much as she used to. Going from last nights performance the star certainly has not problem filling a venue and with the amount of fellow kiwi’s in the capital, her pennings continue to be passed on to new fans. Whenever the singer decides to visit the UK an instant buzz is caused and we flock to see the singer do her thing so we hope that she decides to take to the road more often going forward. Vocally Runga is at her best and her pennings continue to contain a commercial feel to them as well as remaining poetic gems, much like her earlier material. Last nights performance was a real treat from one of New Zealand’s most prolific and influential artists.