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Sam Ryder at EartH review: the Eurovision star is an intensely likeable entertainer

 (PA)
(PA)

In recent years, performing at the Eurovision Song Contest has made artists less of a novelty, and instead become a springboard for hugely successful careers. Led principally by 2021 winners Måneskin, currently on a worldwide arena tour, new acts from across the continent have followed their appearance on the world famous show with albums, tours and beyond.

There’s a reason why Sam Ryder avoided the dreaded ‘nil points’ at Eurovision last year, and has used it to begin an already fruitful period. The perpetually grinning, bearded singer won hearts and minds with his Eurovision single Space Man, and served up more of the same flamboyant, accessible pop on debut album There’s Nothing But Space, Man! at the end of the year.

His gig at the EartH Theatre in Hackney this week, raising money for climate charity Earth Percent, came at a pivotal point in Ryder’s career. Less than a week earlier, he told fans that he had split from his label Parlophone and gone independent. Here, he referenced the situation: “It felt like the right time to leave this system that I wouldn’t be here without. Things happen that you don’t plan for, and it’s about process not prizes.”

It was a striking statement from an artist who gained his exposure via a global TV event, and the first step in what’s set to be an intriguing move to independence. He then described his song Tiny Riot as a “theme tune to this situation I’m facing right now,” and proceeded to sing it with renewed vigour and determination.

The Hackney gig felt like a fresh start for Ryder, though every ounce of the giddy enthusiasm he has become known for was still evident. Playing a stripped-back set with a cellist, guitarist and pianist, he beamed his way through highlights from his debut album and engaged in constant call-and-response singalongs with the audience in the style of his hero and vocal inspiration Freddie Mercury.

For new song Mountain, he greeted his congregation by skipping through the crowd, up and down the stairs of the seated venue as a singalong of its chorus went round and round. By the time he made it back to the front rows, he was bear hugging every single crowd member.

“It feels like a conversation,” Ryder told the crowd of live performance, and he is already a master. Such was the energy and joy with which he attacked every song that plenty are certain to join him on his new independent adventure.