WORDS JANET HARDING / IMAGES WARREN MILLAR
It’s literally only been a few days since I last visited tonight’s venue but I’m more than happy to be back, it’s one of my favourite places to see a live performance – Albert Hall, Manchester, with its wonderful architecture, atmospheric feels and amazing acoustics. It’s another sell out tonight, the phenomenal Self Esteem. Self esteem, the solo project of Rebecca Taylor (Slow Club), is really getting noticed with her no nonsense style and musical genre transcending sounds. It’s sure to be a fiery and feisty show tonight, hard hitting and with support from boundary pushing Tom Rasmussen and the vibrantly strong Mega. We truly are in for one hell of an event!
1st support – Tom Rasmussen
Well I must say Tom makes a huge impact from the minute he steps onto the stage. What immense presence! A very atmospheric start, Performance style dancing, a customised, paint spattered outfit, the jacket of which is peeled off to reveal a t shirt with the slogan “supporting striking workers”, which gets a great reaction from the crowd. The sound is euphoric, trance like, club feels, bass line and beats pulsing. To backing tracks Tom sings and brings a surging energy which is a force to be reckoned with, captivating and very likeable. The vocal is quite something else – soaring, high, far reaching and uplifting. Think Jimmy Somerville type high notes, which are reached seemingly effortlessly. It’s sheer brilliance, very dance inducing, and totally enchanting.
Then in a change of sound the mid section gets more emotional, heartfelt, real pain and suffering comes through in the vocal, a descriptive but pained tone. It’s explained that this section is all about non binary. Then, after a quick costume change, re-emerging in vintage skirt and vest to whoops and screams from the crowd, it’s back to the dance tracks and feel good…This set has been amazing, I’ve loved every second. Meaningful themes with powerful messages, hard hitting, alternating to upbeat and the euphoria element.
2nd support – Mega
There’s a complete change in direction and genre now as Mega begins her set; it’s acoustic and very pure in its form and works very well in tonight’s former church setting. Soulful, jazz feels, even blues, then during lighter more upbeat songs, a slight calypso feel. The vocal is beautiful, very clear, warm and smoky with real feeling to it. Extended notes feature and there is a fantastic range. Moving songs cover themes like suicide; ‘Be good, be kind’ is written about and dedicated to Caroline Flack, a very touching and sensitive song which is performed with true sincerity and empathy. Other songs feel more laid back, a soul feeling, but relaxed and a jangly guitar riff running through their heart. Interaction with the crowd is very genuine: chatty and friendly, laughing about wardrobe malfunctions during previous performances.
Another mesmerising performance tonight. Wonderfully heart warming and that feel good factor alongside, with stunning vocal. Great set.
Self Esteem – Headline
Lead vocal/drums/guitar – Rebecca Taylor
Backing vocal – Marged Sion
Backing vocal – Levi Heaton
Backing vocal – Seraphina d’Arby
Bass/keys -Sophie Galphin
Drums – Mike Park
In darkness and dry ice, through flashing lights, the silhouettes of 3 backing dancers/vocalists are lit against the backdrop of Albert Hall. In fast and very slick choreography they perform amidst the now swirling dry ice, before the lights dim again then lights flash, and atop a staircase of white marble is tonight’s headline…there is only one Self Esteem. Dressed identically to the band members and dancers in oversized grey suit, she begins to sing. Crystal clear vocal, loud and commanding, yet sweet and high at the same time. I hear fans around me gasp and say “Wow”. This is a show stopping and seamless performance, very well produced and executed and, if I may say so, rather mind-blowing too! Throughout tonight’s performance we see numerous fast costume changes, phenomenal choreography and one full and jam packed set list. Instantly there is this feeling of empowerment, of personal power, and it’s completely infectious. The crowd literally hang upon her every word and seem totally under a musical spell throughout. This indeed is some “Fucking Wizardry”.
The feels range from R&B, pop, dance and, dare I say, a sometimes gospel feel to the vocal with the soaring heights these female power house harmonies seem to reach. The energy is feisty, confident and anything goes here; it’s inclusive, comfortable and no judgement…just ‘don’t take any shit and believe in you’ type feels. One earth moving show, this does feel stadium worthy. I get Lady Gaga or Madonna feels, more so because of the dance and production. Self Esteem definitely owns herself and has her own definitive persona. She genuinely seems to reach out to each and every one of us; her presence is felt hugely. This entire house is alive and partying, dancing, screaming back the words to songs, songs that are like anthems.
During slower paced songs our breath is taken away and the crowd fall silent, absorbed in the emotion; Self Esteem has this ability to hold our attention and fully engage us. The vocal goes from soft and gentle and heartfelt to power house, loud and controlled exquisitely throughout. It’s joy to listen to. Songs are witty, gritty and real, relatable, and vary in styles as well as tempo. Costumes have been equally attention grabbing, from the grey suits which opened, to red lycra body stockings with covered heads and faces (Self Esteem sporting a bright red cowboy hat), to sharp, black power suit whilst the rest of the band coordinate in white shirts and black ties. It’s all worked so well, very theatrical and it’s been thrilling from start to finish. The style, concepts, energy and thoughtput into this, plus the performance, has been incredible.
I leave tonight feeling I’ve witnessed something bespoke and unusual. I actually feel empowered, a feeling that anything is possible…‘just go for it’ attitude. I think this is the key to Self Esteem’s tremendous popularity – we can all identify in some part to this, and feel inspired or heard through her music. Very, very original, witty, slick and Self Esteem does seem to give you, well, great self esteem!
1. Prioritise Pleasure
2. Fucking Wizardry
4. Just Kids
6. How can I help you
7. Girl Crush
8. John Elton
9. The 345
11.I do this all the time
FOLLOW SELF ESTEEM
FOLLOW TOM RASMUSSEN
Warren is a live music and festival photographer based in Cheshire and covers gigs/festivals mostly in the North West of England. He has been photographing live music for over 10 years and has covered major artists and festivals