– The White Hotel, Manchester –



I’ve somehow gotten this far without ever seeing LoneLady (aka Julie Campbell) live, and I’m not sure how this happened. I’ve been a fan since her superb second album ‘Hinterland’ from 2015, a brooding, funky, post-punk masterpiece that seemed to reflect the stark, post industrial wastelands still found in and around her home town of Manchester. Last year she released the equally brilliant ‘Former Things’, a lighter but no less propulsive, funk-first blast of an album, one that you just know would sound joyously brilliant live. And so here we are, in the post industrial wasteland of The White Hotel, a place seemingly built to house Campbell’s music, all discarded detritus and barbed wire (indeed, Campbell’s merch includes a few bespoke made plastic champagne flutes with barbed wire coiled around them, out of which Campbell can be seen sipping her bespoke cocktail available this evening after her show – a danger drink entirely in keeping with the surroundings).

Following on from Sister Ruth’s impressive Chromatics/Glass Candy icy synth support act, LoneLady comes to the stage flanked by two band members on drum pads, bass and keys. Campbell wields her guitar and launches into ‘The Catcher’, a staccato bop that immediately gets the crowd moving, something that once you’ve started to do you just can’t stop at this gig, the sheer propulsion of the rhythms do not allow you to stand still. ‘Former Things’ is a sunny delight, its light melody pure serotonin – my mate leans over and says “how can something that sounds like Playschool sound so good?!”, and he’s spot on. ‘Fear Colours’, a standout from ‘Former Things’ is all bouncy bass and 80s drum machine sounds, pockets of the crowd now waving the neon orange glow sticks Campbell’s manager was handing out before the show, creating a 90s club vibe I haven’t seen in a long while.

Some choice cuts from ‘Hinterland’ pepper the set, the giddy rush of ‘Bunkerpop’, the Talking Heads anxiety of ‘Hinterland’ which showcases just how brilliant a guitarist Campbell is, reminding me of the equally brilliant St. Vincent. The showstopper is a moody, aching rendition of ‘Flee!’, my favourite LoneLady track (which I gushingly confess to her in the bar after), and one which I didn’t really expect to hear. Surprisingly she doesn’t play it live much, but it’s astonishing, probably the only time the crowd stop shuffling their feet, standing still to marvel at the post apocalyptic grandeur of this drumless wonder, Campbell’s voice full of longing and pathos. It’s incredibly moving, and incredibly potent, a time-stands-still moment in and amongst all the dancing, a moment that will sit with me for a while. Proceedings are wrapped up with the glorious ‘Groove It Out’, a pop masterclass that in a just world would have been a chart bothering concern, a ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ era Kylie smash hit. It may have taken me this long to see LoneLady live, but I’ll sure as hell be making sure it’s not so long again; a sheer delight of an evening.

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