The January gig-drought is a tough time for the habitual live music addict; a desolate wasteland offering little but unsigned Libertines wannabes and perhaps an in-store or two. But even this most uninspiring month may yield the occasional gem.
London duo Daughter may appear unassuming at first, but Elena Tonra’s arrestingly ethereal vocals elevate this well above typical support band mediocrity. Her songwriting has charm, and although a touch more variety wouldn’t go amiss her set suggests a talent superior to many of her peers.
Viv Albertine’s a very different kettle of fish, although thoroughly entertaining in her own unique fashion. She’s somewhat of a contradiction- once a doyenne of the London punk scene as guitarist for the Slits, she refers to summers taking speed with Sid Vicious and has songs dedicated to the wonders of needles. But she’s also incredibly mumsy (albeit the kind that has a off-puttingly dirty sense of humour), which makes her unyielding cynicism charmingly incongruous.
Her vocals will never win awards, being more direct than tuneful but the lyrics are witty and the arrangements are excellently put together. Plus, anyone who can write a refrain as endearing as “Couples Are Creepy” is all right by me.
Despite the quality of the support acts, the night undoubtedly belonged to Austra.
Given the nature of their music, a heady mix of Zola Jesus and Music Go Music, their live show could have gone either way but with a full band and the Lightman sisters of Tasseomancy (née Ghost Bees) fame providing backing vocals and appropriate shapes, their performance was a triumph (despite the occasional technical glitch).
It’s true that the tatty charm of the Windmill didn’t quite gel with the high-energy Fever Ray-go-disco atmospherics, but the vitality of their performance transcended their surroundings. A few more songs like ‘The Beat And The Pulse’ and their ascent into hipster stardom is almost guaranteed – but for now, in the midst of this interminable winter, it’s just a relief to remember that good live bands still exist.