Stella Donnelly


Tonight is an exciting night for me for two reasons. Firstly, I have patronised the Castle Hotel on a few evenings, but have never ventured past the cosy piano room. Tonight I get to visit door number 2, joyfully adding another Manchester music venue to my ever growing list. Upon entering, the aesthetic feels quite distinguished and grand for a small room, the broken piano left behind. The roof looms like an upturned ship, a wooden hull dimly illuminated by candlelit chandeliers hanging above us. It’s calm and mellow as the crowd gathers ready for what is the second and foremost reason tonight is exciting for me. Stella Donnelly begins with a wonderfully performed cover of ‘No Room For Doubt’ by Lianne La Havas. Her serene voice washes over the crowd for a beautiful opening to the evening.

There are a few tracks tonight that hopefully hint at a new record in the future. Tracks I have been unable to find anywhere, other than floating and playing in my head following the gig. Although with Stella’s first EP, Thrush Metal, still being hot after her worldwide signing to Secretly Canadian, I fear it may be a while before new recorded material is released. ‘You Owe Me’ and ‘Seasons Greetings’ are both tracks I have not heard before, but they are an instant hit with the crowd. Stella feels so genuine on stage, engaging the crowd throughout the set, a bright personality shining through each song. Personal experiences, sometimes vividly troubling, such as a former boss watching female staff on CCTV, layered with a huge dollop of humour.

The powerful ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ is introduced with a content warning of sexual abuse. A song released just before the #MeToo movement blew up, it both encapsulates the dangers of indoctrinating the excuse of harassment as just boyish behaviour, as well as highlighting the effects of placing blame upon victims. It is performed so poignantly and sung so passionately over the delicate finger-picked chords that I overhear many in the audience verbally confirm they have goosebumps, along with myself.

We are jokingly informed the EP title ‘Thrush Metal’, and front cover, being Stella just eating some noodles, was regrettably chosen while expecting the record to only be released among friends and family, rather than plastered all over Spotify! But it is wonderful that it has gone so much further than what was envisioned, bringing her to perform in the UK. And I think the front cover is a great illustration of the charm doubled in her stage presence. Whether the subject matter be hard hitting, humorous or a melting pot of both, Stella delivers in droves. Judging from the size of the crowd she has pulled in tonight, I don’t think she will be making album cover decisions based on a small viewership again.

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