Rising star Dylan treated Shepherd's Bush Empire to an explosive set packed full of pop anthems
There’s no polite way to say it: Dylan is f*cking cool. Rising to fame at the height of the pandemic, the 23-year-old’s window of live performances has been narrow but she’s packed it full, supporting artists such as Tate McRae, Bastille and Ed Sheeran on increasingly enormous tours. To watch her at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, wielding her electric guitar and slinging it over her shoulder to dance across the stage, you’d think she’d been doing this most of her life.
“My dad’s here tonight,” she says. “It’s his birthday.” She leads a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday Dylan’s Dad’, before soberly dedicating her next track to him: “Dad, tonight you’re the Girl Of My Dreams.”
She launches into the song, just one of the many explosive pop rock anthems in her arsenal. Save for ballads ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ and ‘Blisters’ – “You have to have your sad girl moment so that you can be hot,” she tells the room – Dylan’s set is all rise. She couples the two songs together. ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ – a stripped-back track about losing her mum and the contrasting comfort and loneliness of being on the road – is particularly special. When the tearjerker is over, she grins: “Right, time to be hot again.”
Against the odds, the transition isn’t jarring. Her big numbers are full of sardonic put-downs and nihilistic quips – ‘You’re Not Quite Harry Styles’ is as scathing as you’d expect. “Hopelessly romantic but you’re not very clever, when you gonna realise that nothing ever lasts forever?” she asks on ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, the evening’s closer. They’re attitudes and sentiments that speak to Gen Z, and that other aspiring artists are trying desperately to imitate.
Where Dylan succeeds, and why she’s gathered such a large fanbase so quickly, is that coming from her, none of it ever feels performative. She sings about the loneliness of finding herself with no mum to call just as sincerely as she tells her ex-boyfriend, “You ain’t tall enough to act like that.” Whilst artists on TikTok jostle each other for the perfect viral lyric, Dylan manages to make it look like the perfect pop performance comes easy.
“Here’s my sh*tty guitar solo,” she announces, swinging her electric guitar back over her shoulder before launching into it. Someone hands her a lesbian flag from the audience and she drapes it around her shoulders for her closing number. Early in the set, just before young love anthem ‘Nineteen’, she facilitates a proposal. “She said yes!” she announces, gesturing to someone in the front row, before ploughing breezily on with her set. It would probably be hyperbolic to say that nothing could faze her – but I imagine it would take a lot.