Holy Trinity Church, Leeds, January 15
A huge neon cross hangs over the stage of the Holy Trinity Church, draped in fabric. It looms large over the sold-out crowd, members of which are huddling on the pews, in the aisles, or sitting down on the cold stone floor. The cross offers little protection against the piercing emotion of Daughter’s earthy songs, which are amplified in volume and intensity between the building’s towering columns.
4AD’s spring signings introduce themselves with ‘Shallows’, a gentle welcome to the set with its sparse and plucked intro. “Let the water rise”, sings Elena Tonra, as Igor Haefeli joins her with his intertwining guitar lines and Remi Aguilella’s drums step in to bolster the sound. It’s a stark beginning. Elena barely looks up; her fringe hides her eyes as she sings. By third song ‘Run’ her voice takes on a rough and husky hue, as though her lungs have finally overcome the icy temperatures. Here there’s a glimpse of where the darkness of Daughter’s songs comes from. She might not look you in the eye, but she’ll betray her darkest thoughts with grace.
In ‘Youth’ from 2011’s ‘Wild Youth’ EP, the London-based trio have an unlikely hit – a song about dead relationships and bitterness that soundtracked 2012’s Tour De France. Tonight there’s a shuffle of familiarity among the audience as its lilting intro plays out. Newer songs are just as well received. ‘Lifeforms’ is a highlight, with Elena’s woollen voice forced out over the oppressive build of guitar and drums. She splutters the last line “Clean up the dirt you leave behindM”, and clings to her own words like she’s scared of the silence that will follow.
‘Smother’ feels like a regretful goodbye: “I wish I’d stayed inside my mother”, she purrs. The song’s anti-climactic end feels final, but instead we pause to sing a tuneless ‘Happy Birthday’ to the now 23-year-old singer. The band end with ‘Home’, a slow lament that creates a real sense of longing. There’s no encore. Daughter are far too humble to outstay their welcome. They exit, graciously unaware of their own charms.