Holly Humberstone dazzles at intimate The Wardrobe gig
By Ella May Buckley
I have made a fatal error. When my press pass came through earlier today, I didn’t have a physical ticket so I googled ‘Holly Humberstone, Leeds’. Google Events says 8pm, so I sit down with a bowl of tomato pasta, grateful for a break.
7pm I finish my pasta and start walking. I send a text to Willow, tell her I’ll be fifteen minutes early, and wander down to the city centre, feeling rather smug about being so punctual. Idly, I scroll on my phone, and decide to check whether there’ll be a support act. If so, I thought, I’ll be early for both! Quick pint at the Wardrobe, maybe even a barrier spot! Win, win!
This is when I search ‘Holly Humberstone Leeds 2 Oct’, click on the link to The Wardrobe’s event schedule page and see, to my dismay, that doors were at 7pm, and that Google and I were in fact wrong. I am half an hour late, and am sternly reminded by the note on the website; ‘the event will start shortly after this, so please be prompt!’.
It is 7.30pm. I start to run through the city centre. It is raining, I am damp and stressed. I manage, breathlessly, to ask the kind doorman for my press pass and he lets me in with five minutes to spare. I am wearing a sodden leather jacket, the venue is crowded and I am too late to even attempt to hustle my way to the front.
What a treat, then, to be greeted with Holly Humberstone’s music, as ethereal and
thoughtful and loving as it is, an hour and a half of acoustic musings on falling in love (and asleep at the wheel).
The venue is packed with spectators of all ages, from students to older men, and rightfully so; Humberstone’s gentle, confessional songwriting suits a venue as small as the Wardrobe. Despite the sizeable crowd, as each song starts there seems to be a collective holding of breath. Everyone seems to have a way to relate to this, somehow.
I hide in the back, make notes on each song, and as I look back on them the word ‘lovely’ features in almost every review. Lovely thick guitar. Lovely voice – beautiful rasp. Lovely use of soundboard. When the crowd starts singing along to ‘Friendly Fire’, one of her most beloved tracks from ‘Can You Afford to Lose Me?’, it’s almost as if they don’t want to interrupt whatever magic is going on.
‘Kissing in Swimming Pools’ is a personal favourite, with harmonies and lines that feel so personal and private that they almost sting. Perhaps this is my own aversion to vulnerability, but I think this might be the only thing I find hard about Humberstone’s songwriting; that she’s so good at writing about the feeling of a new crush or of the pain of growing up away from your family that at points it feels like she’s reading your diary out loud.
Holly Humberstone has always said in interviews that she is deeply inspired by her
environment, and this shines through even more on this record. No situation is too ordinary or too weird to be turned into magic; doing karaoke on ‘Ghost Me’, or meeting Elvis impersonators in a nightclub in Japan (the latter song, unsurprisingly, is called ‘Elvis Impersonators’ - because could you really call it anything else?).
You can hear that the new album tracks are being played for the first time when they are placed in contrast with beloveds like ‘Scarlett’ and ‘Deep End’; the confidence and practice she has on the earlier record really shines through in comparison. No complaints, though – the tentativeness in performance suits her gentle voice and confessional songwriting, and the clean, practiced crowd favourites provide a taster of what is yet to come. I’m particularly intrigued by a yearning acoustic ballad that is promised to be a dance track when the new record comes out. When Holly Humberstone leaves, she promises the crowd
that she’ll be back in March. ‘Then we’ll have a proper party!’. I have a feeling she’ll be right.
Holly Humberstone's debut album, 'Paint My Bedroom Black' is out tomorrow, 13th October.