Image: Chuff Media

Cian Ducrot victoriously puts on a dynamic show at the O2 Academy Birmingham

 O2 Academy Birmingham, 18th November 2023

 The Irish flags flying; the crowd abuzz with excitement; even before entering the venue, this was definitely the atmosphere of a sold-out show. Cian Ducrot’s return to Birmingham as a stop on his Victory Tour, bringing to the stage his album of the same name, follows his show at The Mill earlier this year, only he now fills a venue over double the size. Minutes away from entering, groups burst into singing his TikTok viral hit ‘I’ll Be Waiting’, which he blew up for by taking a choir to random locations across the country (and world) to serenade unsuspecting members of the public, from baristas to bankers. In the time waiting for his set to begin, members of the crowd sweetly share stories of how they discovered the Irish artist, with some hearing his songs as part of the Love Island soundtrack, and others being introduced to him by friends and family.

The Victory Tour truly brings the album to life

The band begins to play. As the tempo kicks up, the neon lettering on the stage backdrop spelling out the artist’s name lights up, flickering with rising speed in sync with both the audience’s surging anticipation, as well as the build-up of the beat and baseline. As Ducrot steps onto the stage, he launches into the album’s title track ‘Victory’. Looking out onto a sea of roaring fans, he pauses to take in what is clearly his own ‘I made it’ moment of victory. The show warms up as he moves into ‘Mama’ and ‘Heaven’, songs dedicated to his mother and brother respectively. The use of synth tracks and arrangements that slightly stray from the original, more acoustically rooted recordings, set the tone for what will be a musically unique show.

The Victory Tour truly brings the album to life. The show continuously echoes with Ducrot’s calls for the audience to join in, as he repeats the hook of every song at the end of it, with a 3000-strong choir ringing out each time. Taking audience participation to new heights, he jumps into the crowd for the final chorus of ‘Heaven’, and his return onto the stage seamlessly transitions into playing a piano instrumental of ‘Him’, over which he encourages everyone present to “celebrate your hardships and everything you’ve gone through” to get to the person you are today. In a heart-warming touch, there was a ‘Victory Box’ stationed at the merch stand, where anyone can write and post their personal victories, of which Ducrot shares a few on his Instagram story. This is an artist who truly cares for his fans and crafts his shows as a shared experience, breaking the barrier between musician and listener to create a night that, in his words, he “will never forget”, and it is certain nobody in the audience will either.

Each of the more stripped-back songs, including ‘How Do You Know’ and ‘Hurt When You Hurt Me’, are paired with a soft orange light that glows from his piano, which is in turn lit up in twinkling lights, only further enkindling an atmosphere of warmth and safety. Yet these tracks too build into a burst of musical energy, as the blue lights come up for the later choruses and the singer frequents both sides of the stage, engaging with every person present, performing directly to those from the back of the balcony to the front of the barrier.

Calling a Cian Ducrot concert a dynamic experience is an understatement

In a sentimentally charged album, no emotion is left not bared as Ducrot truly leaves it all on the floor. The Academy is enveloped in red as he brings out raw hard-hitting vocals for songs exploring love, loss, friendship and family, with ‘Blame It On You’ being a beautiful piano acoustic homage to everything his mother did for him and his brother when his father left. Towards the end, the tone transitions to a heavy rock rendition of ‘Everyone Who Falls In Love’, driving home the angst of feeling “never enough” as the song cries out, aptly reflected by the backdrop of flashing lights pulsating red. The emotional and musical dynamism of the show is not lost on a single person in the room, who experience everything from raging rock to moving explorations of Ducrot’s upbringing, to synth-loaded scores in just an hour and a half. Further underscoring his musical talent, he not only plays the guitar and piano throughout but brings out a flute for an iconic Irish-inspired lick in ‘Endless Nights’, for which the crowd rightly erupts in cheers of amazement.

Cohesively, the night of course ends on an energetic high with ‘I’ll Be Waiting’, during which Ducrot goes out of his way to sign a fan’s Irish flag, cementing the image of him everyone in the room would have developed that night of an artist that goes above and beyond. Not only the album but also the experience of hearing his diverse musical talents and raw emotional vocals live creates a beautifully safe space for his listeners to celebrate their victories and explore their vulnerabilities, as Ducrot bares his to us. With lighting perfectly paired to reflect each of the various vibes throughout the night, calling a Cian Ducrot concert a dynamic experience is an understatement. If you want to laugh, cry, dance, sing, be moved and also feel on cloud 9, seeing this show is for you.


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