This was Rebecca Lucy Taylor aka Self Esteem’s biggest Scottish headline date so far. This time last year she played a euphoric set at Queen Margaret Union, possibly a third the size of the Barrowland if even that, then subsequent festival dates drew in some more curious non-fans, and so things have just grown and grown. The date sold out several weeks ago, as did the previous night at the somewhat smaller Queens Hall in Edinburgh, so even though it was a cold Monday night in March, there was a bit of a party vibe from the start.
BM missed most of first act Tom Rasmussen but judging from the cheering on entering the hall he had gone down pretty well despite it being only 7.45pm or so. Second act on was Nuha Ruby Ra, a London-based artist who performed to some thundering backing tracks which she triggered using her foot to tap a wee box on the floor. She has released a couple of EPs and there were several offerings from them tonight, notably second track ‘My Voice’.
Dancing around slightly robotically and using two mikes at once (one with considerable delay on it) she used her voice more like another instrument and appeared to be channelling the likes of Alice Glass and even possibly Bjork at times. There was some serious attitude on a couple of further tracks (‘Don’t Touch Me’?) and the shortish set ended with some ramped up guitar thrash sampling (there was an earlier reference to “pricks with guitars”, of whom she has probably met, and dumped, a few…). Spiky and combination anger with a degree of mischief, NRR comes across as a serious talent with a lot of potential – BM can see why RLT picked her out for tour support…
In the interval that followed the drapes were removed from which BM correctly guessed was a flight of stairs (leading to nowhere) in mock marble, to be used by RLT and the backing vocalists/dancers for stepping up and down and posing, in the same vein as Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ video (ok not quite no many but you get the idea). Aside from that the stage set-up is as ever fairly minimalist, with plenty of space for the main act and her cohorts to move about, and move about they certainly did.
Coming on last after the installation of regular musicians Mike Park (drums) and Sophie Galpin (bass/keys/drums) and the appearance of Marged, Levi and Seraphina in matching trouser suits, the music started, the dancing started and RLT herself appeared, to mass screaming and downright hysteria from sections of the crowd. She had us from the start, stopping the vocals on numerous occasions to let the crowd provide the words. After some initial bangers from now less recent album no.2 ‘Prioritise Pleasure’ we got a couple of newer tracks (was ‘Happy Valley’ just a spoken word add-on to ‘Just Kids’? not sure) during which everyone basically stripped down to what can only be described as pseudo gimp suits, complete with masks (BM would have liked to have been a fly on the wall when poor Mike got to try his on…). The lighting strobed and the BPM increased for techno-driven new track ‘Mother’ – it was almost a bit of a relief to escape from the sex dungeon into ‘How Can I Help You?’
Another new track ‘Love Second’ was premiered before ‘Girl Crush’ from debut album ‘Compliments Please’, then the bangers continued with the hernia-inducing ‘John Elton’ and ‘The 345’, by which time another costume change had been effected (into smart black and white, all matching, again!) – the theatricality of the show was immense, along with the feeding off the audience (by not just RLT but everyone else as well). There was some banter with the crowd – (“I’ve always wanted to play here, and loads of more successful indie bands used to boast about it – well get me…” etc) and a lot of bigging up the other players. RLT deployed a guitar for the first and only time for solo spot ‘You Forever’ (which silenced the crowd, at least for the first verse or so).
Pretty much the entire lyrics of main set closer ‘I Do This All the Time’ was shouted back by the audience (and the merch stall was doing a roaring trade in ‘Moody For Life’ t-shirts and posters with various lyric extracts on them) – there is no doubt that this album has touched a nerve in terms of subject matter, which along with the stage show just drives people nuts.
They came back again for a run through ‘I’m Fine’ (complete with a mass bark-off with the audience at the end), older track ‘The Best’ and the calmer, more serene (“and relax…”) ‘Still Reigning’. This tour is going to be quite a hard thing to follow but BM is pretty confident that RLT will continue her journey from put-upon indie band also-ran to pop music’s current reigning dancing queen/diva.