“I want to put on a show – I want it to be too much!” Rebecca Lucy Taylor told NME earlier this year, amid rehearsals for what would eventually morph into her ‘Prioritise Pleasure’ tour. The artist, who releases music as Self Esteem, was reflecting on unlearning a decade of performing in the indie sphere with her old band Slow Club. “Everything about that world was like, ‘Ooh – we just happen to be playing our songs quietly, don’t look at me, don’t make any sort of spectacle out of me; I’m just sort of accidentally talented.’ That’s something I never enjoyed about it.”
And accordingly, everything about Self Esteem’s show tonight at Heaven is deliciously and exquisitely over-the-top – from Taylor’s pink satin ball gown (emblazoned with the diamanté slogan ‘work hard’) to her troupe of leopard print-clad singer-dancers. A euphoric catharsis spreads across the audience when the show kicks off with ‘Prioritise Pleasure’s dark opener ‘I’m Fine’, a ferocious, grinding declaration of sexual liberation which creates a tension that sticks around for the rest of the hour-long set. Towards the end of ‘I’m Fine’ Taylor and her dancers turn around to face the screens: “If we are approached by a group of men, we will bark like dogs,” the text says, as Self Esteem looks on. Then, as if exorcising all of it, Taylor and the entirety of Heaven howl together like hounds. Continually, the lightness of her all-out pop choreography serves as a way to smuggle in the darkness.
You’d think sustaining this knife-edge energy might prove a challenge, but the momentum never slows as Taylor deftly hops between debut album cuts like the synth-string laden ‘Girl Crush’ and the bright melodic bursts of newer material like ‘Moody’. When she scales everything back with a sparse rendition of ‘Just Kids’ and an entirely a capella ‘John Elton’, they serve as beautiful pockets of reflection. Hopping between these two distinctive moods is a difficult one, but Self Esteem is the bridge, chatting away like “I’m Peter fucking Kay,” she jokes at one point. “I wish I could let the music do the talking instead of needing to get you onside by being charming,” Taylor faux-despairs.
Charming as she is, Taylor needn’t worry too much – an electrifying rendition of ‘I Do This All The Time’ is one of many moments where her music becomes a force unchained. “Don’t be intimidated by all the babies they have, don’t be embarrassed that all you’ve had is fun,” yells the entire venue in unison. “Prioritise pleasure!”
The meticulously well-rehearsed show flies to a triumphant close, leaving Self Esteem to depart to the raucous strums of Meredith Brooks’ ‘Bitch’. With the house lights cranked up, Heaven carries on dancing to another classic banger about embracing all the sides of you at once: from the sexiest hip flex, to the moodiest phone selfie. And spilling out onto the streets of Charing Cross, the crowd carry on singing it into the night – the perfect ending to a flawless show.
Self Esteem played:
‘How Can I Help You?’
‘I Do This All The Time’