Sunday, January 24, 2016

Daughter, Albert Hall Manchester, 21st January 2016 8/10

Daughter shys away from commercial, materialistic goals, yet this tour was entirely sold out. Their popularity owes something to the song Youth capturing the public imagination in 2012, though endearingly Elena Tonra explained in an interview that since she doesn't own a TV, she found out about its use on the Tour de France coverage from her parents. This song spontaneously became a sing along in Manchetser last night, a rare example of overt audience involvement. Amsterdam was another exquisitely performed highlight from If You Leave, but the newer songs engaged me more, and in Human, Elena's vocals felt too tentative. Not To Disappear has divided critics, some reviews being guarded in their praise, yet to my mind, it has greater depth and more complex structures.

The wintery evening began with Pixx, led by the youthful Brit School alumnus Hannah Rodgers. Their eerie electronic production created a pensive, moody feel and silenced the audience. Apart from being label mates on 4AD, the link to Daughter reaches beyond melancholy to the use of contemporary influences on folk. Daughter has progressed Electronic sounds in Not To Disappear. This can be heard in the particularly effective song is Alone / With You, about a previous one sided relationship, where the use of syths creates atmosphere. Elena described this song as: 'a study of loneliness from the inside out'. There is greater continuity with their earlier work in the accessible lead single Numbers, with effective use of percussion and a repetition of the mantra: "I feel numb in this kingdom". The lyrics were clearly audible throughout but the pain and fragility in Elena's eyes spoke just as powerfully. The lighting design and giant album art backdrop were appropriately muted.

Since I last saw Daughter in Manchester in 2013 their performance has become more confident, but it's still tentative, and testament to the attentive audience that it remained so moving in a larger space. The music combines influences of shoegaze, dream pop, and post rock; gentle vocals often being disrupted by a dramatic guitar riff, cymbal crash or disarmingly painful lyrics. Elena has explained that the band started because she knew she wanted to perform, but needed people around her to give her support. Remi Aguilella's strong drumming style has been compared to The National's Bryan Devendorf's, and Igor Haefeli's guitar work was sensitive, but Elena sets the mood. As she explained: 'I do feel there’s a strength in being an emotion being'.

My favourites from the newer material included Mother, where Elena shows real empathy about the emotional and physical burdens of motherhood, and the poignant Doing The Right Thing, written in response to her grandmother's Alzheimer's. No Care provided a change of tempo in a surprisingly theatrical set, given the lack of movement around the stage or dancing. Elena spoke briefly with shyness to thank the audience and express her hope that the Victorian venue is haunted, as she'd heard rumoured. At the core of this act is honesty: Elena shares her experiences of loss, pain and loneliness, like Sharon Van Etten in the hope that others will find her insights into the human condition as therapeutic to listen to as she does expressing them. Her themes feel all too relevant to my life at present, and immersion in such devastation can be cathartic. I was delighted to find out just before this gig that I'll have a chance to experience their healing again at Primavera Sound in June, and if you're also helped by such empathy, I recommend you seek them out.

Tomorrow (If You Leave)
Alone / With You*
Amsterdam (IYL)
Human (IYL)
Doing the Right Thing*
Shallows (IFY)
Home (Wild Youth EP)
No Care*
Winter (IYL)
Smother (IYL)
New Ways*
Youth (IYL)

Made Of Stone*
(*Not To Disappear)

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