The low buzz of anticipation in the underground room where we waited for Mexican-Canadian songstress Lindi Ortega effectively paralleled our eagerness to hear her diverse collection of country music. Managed by the popular Last Gang Records and winner of Roots Artist of the Year from the Canadian Country Music Association, the quirky ‘self-described bird-lover’ holds so much appeal within her contrasts; with the seasoned singer’s new direction, she brings to us a refreshing return to traditional country music.
The venue itself was full of an older crowd who were all very familiar with her work, and had an edgy yet intimate feel to it, dimly lit but with a few twinkling lights. The real illumination however arrived when Ortega leaped out of nowhere onto stage, a huge smile shining from her face, and you could feel the surges of excitement pulsing through the crowd.
Opening with the ironically up-beat Run-Down Neighbourhood was an instant crowd-pleaser, however as the night went on it soon became obvious that that applied to her whole set list. Much of this was composed of songs from her latest album, Faded Gloryville, marking for her a new direction in country music and it has received immeasurable praise.
The next song she played from this album was notably Half-Moon, and we began to see her bubbly, witty side emerge as she made an adorably cringe-worthy ‘mooning’ joke. I had wondered how Ortega would be able to make transitions between heart-felt ballads such as the album’s titular song Faded Gloryville to the foot-stomping, rousing Run Amuck, yet she accomplished this flawlessly, aided by her frequent conversations with the audience. It was obvious to all how excited and humble she was to be playing for us when we saw her talk animatedly to a camera when told that a big fan of hers couldn’t make it that night.
A true privilege it was to hear her glorious voice effortlessly carry us through the fictitious town of Faded Gloryville. Her voice was just like that on her albums – perfectly emotive, and more so in-person with her confident body-language, mesmerising us all to sway along to the rhythms with her, and she even sang while sidling through the crowd at one point.
Cheery, beautiful, down to earth and marvellously talented, it was no surprise to us when she announced that she had already sold out of her albums on this tour. Ortega is continuing to play throughout Europe, and will warm the hearts of all crowds with how truly humble she is, as she re-iterated to us that despite self-deprecating songs about being lost and in a difficult time on her album, she is so happy and thankful to be where she is and loves performing to these audiences. She has often stated that “Faded Gloryville” is not a destination, but a pit-stop – however Ortega’s increasing success suggests that there is no stopping her anytime soon.
One of her encore songs that managed to satisfy the crowd that was rightfully hungry-for-more was the titular song of her breakthrough album – Tin Star, and a beautiful cover of Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash, and the applause that had rocketed through the building all night would not stop.
It was awe-inspiring to see her self-awareness shine through in songs such as I Ain’t The Girl and Ashes, where we felt personally addressed by her yearning and honesty. An unforgettably shrewd yet friendly style, Ortega is already sorely missed and we’re all eager to follow her next steps.
By Lydia Cooke