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Olivia Dean’s acoustic bliss at Assai Records

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Earlier this month Olivia Dean announced the release of If You Know What I Mean. This exclusive vinyl is every Deano fan’s dream and features five of her favourite songs including her hits ‘The Hardest Part’, ‘Echo’, and ‘Be My Own Boyfriend’. Dean has been touring the UK, performing in record shops to sell and promote If You Know What I Mean to her fans. I had the luxury of catching her Edinburgh show at Assai Records.

Everyone knows that a live show is always better than a Spotify listening session, and Dean’s show was no exception. Olivia Dean is no stranger to an acoustic set, her album: Live at the Jazz Café is an eight-track exploration of her most famous songs stripped back. It can often be difficult to hear the jazz influences that run through her songs, but in this intimate show, adorned with Ella Fitzgerald riffs and runs, Dean kept her audience hooked.

‘Echo’ was the first on her set list, a fan favourite not often heard stripped back, and with help from the bass guitar and keyboard only two minutes into the show the track had the crowd dancing and entertained enough to forget about the crowded setting. Dean revealed how her next song (my favourite), ‘Password Change’ was inspired by an ex-boyfriend who was so preoccupied with the World Cup that she was left in a crowd of pub-bellied England fans questioning if it was her who was the cause of the lack of communication in their relationship.

After hearing this true story, ‘Be My Own Boyfriend’ was a fitting third song. Motivated by Dean’s philosophy that society’s idea of the ‘other-half’ creates the illusion that people need a significant other to feel whole, this song has become a self-love anthem. Although an acoustic version of this song was released earlier this year, not to be dramatic, but hearing it live was like a spiritual experience.

‘The Hardest Part’, ‘Cross My Mind’ and ‘Danger’, Dean’s newest single, lifted the mood after a moment of calm and had the audience laughing and dancing with her. Assai Records was the perfect venue for these three songs. The subtle reggae in ‘Danger’ was not lost to the limited stage space. Alternatively, the plain stage and simple setting accentuated the authentic Caribbean influences.

Unexpectedly, Olivia Dean performed her unreleased song ‘Dive’. Its amusing lyrics and upbeat rhythm are an insight into the sound of her debut album, released next year. A record shop does not seem like the ideal concert setting, but the intimate space at the heart of Edinburgh created a comforting environment, and all for free.

If you’re looking for a chilled night out adorned with a fusion of jazz, pop, and reggae then I strongly recommend you go to an Olivia Dean performance.

If You Know What I Mean is available to buy on Olivia Dean’s website from the 18th November 2022.

Image courtesy of Sasha White.

By Keisha Frimpong

Editor in Chief