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Review: Bishop Briggs lives up to next big thing hype at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg

Bishop Briggs paced the State Theatre stage like a penned-up puma, pouncing and snarling and singing with a fire belying her 24 years.

And then between almost every song during her sold-out concert on Wednesday, she would grin ear to ear and hunch shyly into her mic.

“The thought of headlining our own tour was such a far-off dream,” she said with a laugh. “We’re happy to say, with you guys, we did it.”

The State Theatre is where the up-and-comers come to play in Tampa Bay, and at this stage in 2017, the much-hyped Briggs fits that bill. Fresh off winning raves for her performances at Coachella and Shaky Knees, the Los Angeles-based singer drew a packed, all-ages mix of the curious and the diehard, some of whom styled their hair in her signature mouse-ears buns, and some of whom lined up outside by mid-afternoon for a shot at a space by the stage.

And what a thrilling view they must’ve gotten. Dressed like a Goth en route to tennis practice, practically swallowed by her bright white Lacoste track jacket, Briggs delivered an appropriately athletic set, rarely resting as she locked eyes with the crowd and gave them a taste of her Next Big Thing buzz.

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Briggs traffics in moody minor keys and electro-pop beats that go from minimalist to booming on a dime, as on early songs Dark Side and Pray (Empty Gun). Artists like Halsey, Banks and Lana Del Rey have ridden such sounds to big success, but Briggs has a much bigger voice, one that shares a U.K. soul sensibility similar to Sam Smith or Hozier. It was evident anytime a shimmering organ shone through her icy beats, like the fierce, trip-hoppy Hallowed Ground or smoking Fire and Dead Man’s Arms.

Briggs had the crowd screaming on larger-than-life tracks Wild Horses, an electro-trappy powerhouse of percussive clicks and big, brasslike blasts of bass; and closer River, an ominous clash of booms and hell-raising howls. But she also displayed surprising tenderness and intimacy on the sparse Walls and Lyin’, a slinky little melody that ended with Briggs dancing in a furious fit of calisthenics. In a world where British minimalists the xx can headline festivals like III Points or the aforementioned Shaky Knees, it’s possible to picture Briggs someday following in their footsteps.

Briggs still has room to grow. Despite all her hype, she still laughed and shook her head between nearly every song like she couldn’t believe this was all happening.She has promised her debut album is coming this year, which might allow her to spread the wings of her relatively stark sonic palette, and extend her shows past 70 minutes in the process.

But if Briggs does grow? Watch out. The stage can barely hold her as it is.

-- Jay Cridlin

[Last modified: Thursday, May 18, 2017 12:41am]


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