Self Esteem


What an absolute triumph this show is. Self Esteem (Rebecca Lucy Taylor to her mum) returns to Manchester after playing Yes earlier in the year for what is a kind of a victory lap for her brilliant debut album Compliments Please, and absolutely slays it. The packed out Friday night crowd are eager in anticipation for her return, and straight off the bat she does not disappoint (I’m pretty sure it’s not in her nature to do so), wearing a massive purple faux fur coat she throws out ‘Wrestling’ followed by ‘Steady I Stand’ and ‘Girl Crush’, three stone cold pop bangers right from the off, and we are completely in the palm of her hand. It’s pretty brave to start off with three of your biggest, brightest, best songs but it’s a gamble that completely pays off and sets the tone at fever pitch for the rest of the night.

*Sound the contractually obliged former band mention klaxon* Taylor said she ‘felt compromised’ during her Slow Club days, and Self Esteem is the sound of her throwing off the shackles that she felt she had during her time in that band, burning them, and then burying the ashes and dancing on the grave whilst making queer-pop anthems for kids to dance and holler to. Underneath the bangers there are also moments of pure tender beauty, none more so that when she sings ‘She Reigns’ completely a capella, her stunning vocals soaring into the balcony of the venue as she sings, “baby, I’m not easy, to be with like this, it’s ok to quit, but no one tried like you”, the rowdy crowd silent as a funeral party, stunned to awe by the vulnerability and gorgeousness of the song and her desperately beautiful performance. The ovation she gets after looks like it might move her to tears, an appreciation of how much we appreciate her, it’s a special moment.

‘In Time’ is another absolute throbbing banger, her backing dancers perfectly in sync with some sweetly simple dance moves poorly copied by me and my mate, the drums almost Kanye-esque as she sings, “I’m gonna get drunk and slag you off, then I’m gonna go home and eat my feelings up”, a situation with universality said with a wink and a nod. It’s during these moments that I wonder to myself how the hell all these tracks didn’t make the A list of all the mainstream radio stations, and how Taylor isn’t headlining somewhere like the Apollo with legions of screaming fans, because they’re that good and they totally could sit on daytime Radio 1 and blow most of their fare out of the water. ‘I’m Shy’ marks the end of her set, gathering her dancers and musicians around her as they a capella the shit out of this too, another stunning moment, the crowd quietly mouthing back, “I know I don’t behave the way you want me to be, I’d love to change my ways but it’s too late”.

But…there’s an encore, obvs. A stalled version of her pitch-shifted album closer ‘On the Edge of Another One’, kicks things off, solo with a guitar, she laughs as she messes up a sad, sad song with the lines, “you don’t know me but how could you, you don’t like me and why would you”. Then she literally saves ‘The Best’ for last, an anthem for doing your damn best and not giving a fuck, the repeated refrain of “I did the best that I could babe”, a mantra rippling through the crowd before a wild and sustained ovation makes Taylor beam as she jauntily jigs off the stage, the whoops ringing in her ears. She did the best that she could, and it was spectacular. Radio 1, take note, yeah?

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