LIVE REVIEW: Daughter, O2 Forum London, 28/01/16

Quietly sobbing to yourself is definitely acceptable behaviour at a gig, right?

It happens all of a sudden. The heart swells. The throat catches. The lip shakes. Tears prick the eyes. And nothing matters except whatever devastating, self-destructive mantra your head’s chosen to repeat.

It’s there in the soft, soaring, precise vocals of Elena Tonra that quiver and emote. It’s in the delicately plucked electric guitars, layering in liquid shoegaze textures. In the shattering drums, the frosty synths, the haunting backing harmonies. Pain. Sadness. Regret. Longing.

Mostly, it’s in the lyrics. Daughter’s music is drenched in melancholy, but it’s Tonra’s raw, candid lyrics that seem to cut straight to the soul, almost savage in their frank simplicity, pathetic in their desperate tragedy. “I want him but we’re not right”, she laments. “If you leave…you’ll find me in the shallows”. “What if I’m made of stone?”. “I hate walking alone, I should get a dog or something”. And on Youth the audience collectively and cathartically sigh: “If you’re in love then you are the lucky one, ‘cause most of us are bitter over someone”.

It’s the sort of music that cries out for a more intimate venue. It’s as if this is a personal performance, a one-to-one experience that deserves more than to be tainted by the crowd’s inane chatter, poor singing and constant whooping. Tonra’s voice cuts through it all like a ghost calling out to you. Spellbinding.

It’s not all downbeat, though. The band do lurch into more uptempo territory filled with angst and urgent release, which is certainly more prominent on their recent album Not To Disappear – tracks like the skittish No Care, the aching guitar lines of How, the driving Fossa, and the almost folk feel of Human from debut album If You Leave. Yet in these songs the tumultuous wall of sound overwhelms Tonra’s vocal until she, ironically enough, disappears. With that, the band lose what makes them special – those bittersweet lyrics. On a technical level, too, the sound is top heavy and lacks some bass to really underpin the swirling vortex of emotionally charged guitars.

The band don’t speak much between songs, beyond some softly murmured thank yous. They barely move either. But none of that matters. It’s just you and the music, wrapping itself around you like a cocoon of sound, comforting and safe like a blanket. It’s an evening of reflection, an outpouring of emotion from band to fans, before we all go home and – somehow – carry on with our lives.

Ed Nightingale

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Daughter, The Forum London, 28/01/16
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