By Sophie Williams
It takes a moment of quiet for Dylan’s first-ever US headline show to explode. “I’m having a real ‘what the fuck moment’ right now,” the Suffolk-born artist says, eyes scrunched shut as if she’s struggling to comprehend the both the scale and the joy of the scenes before her. The 22-year-old is halfway through a sold-out gig at New York’s Mercury Lounge – the same venue that played a pivotal role in launching the careers of The Strokes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs in the early 2000s – and her conversation has switched to fast-forward. “This is one of the best nights of my life,” she continues, words breathlessly tumbling from her, beaming like a child at their own birthday party. While a cynic would call it just another customary line for the gig, tonight, you really believe her.
Dylan’s appeal is her gutsy relatability, in how she rolls a captive audience through songs that pair righteousness with candour and self-doubt from a perspective that feels simultaneously youthful and worldly. Her racingly anthemic take on pop has won her support slots with Yungblud and Tate McRae, and last month, she opened up for Ed Sheeran at London’s Wembley Stadium. As a performer, she’s clearly learned plenty from holding the attention of big stages: Dylan is radiant and assertive, bouncing in her platform shoes, delivering knee slides and belting out covers of Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Paradise City’ and ‘I Kissed A Girl’ by Katy Perry with equal power and verve.
Her ambition also comes with deep reserves of resilience. Many of Dylan’s songs glance sideways at personal struggles she’s had to overcome: a foot-stomping ‘Someone Else’ references the tougher carapace she has developed emotionally since a break up, while self-care manifesto ‘No Romeo’ dresses down a deadbeat ex with lyrics delivered fiercely as if the subject is in the room. “You’re better off sleeping on your own / He’s never gonna give you all the love you know that you deserve,” Dylan repeats, evoking the sort of big sister advice that also permeates Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules’. The ubiquitous joy of a crowd of glitter-drenched young women singing the words back to each other is genuinely moving and inspiring.
Dylan continues to form a genuine rapport with her audience: the show is peppered with laughter as she cracks jokes about her nerves or how flushed her face is, and she encourages pantomime-style booing whenever she talks about past lovers. While some elements of her performance may be studied – occasionally singing over backing tracks; a call-and-response routine during ‘Live Without It’ – they clearly don’t lack heart.
“I hope to return to New York soon,” Dylan says after blasting through the infectiously fun kiss-off of ‘You’re Not Harry Styles’. “You’ll be playing Madison Square Garden one day!’”, responds one fan from the back of the crowd. As she wraps up with ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, her pace and exuberance barely letting up, Dylan leaves little room for doubt: pop of this calibre deserves to be heard in arenas.
‘Live Without It’
‘Girl Of Your Dreams’
‘I Kissed A Girl’
‘You’re Not Harry Styles’
‘Nothing Lasts Forever’