Gig review: Hannah Trigwell at Headrow House, Leeds

'Just a note, I can't see any of you from up here,' Hannah Trigwell tells Leeds's Headrow House at the dawn of her conversationalist, solo hometown show.
Hannah TrigwellHannah Trigwell
Hannah Trigwell

Her quandary is less than surprising; to her left, a fog machine periodically belches dry ice up that mistily swirls like a sci-fi special effect around her under sharp bright lights. Squint and it is almost as if she was lost beneath the hull of the USS Enterprise as it docked on yet more uncharted territory.

Out behind debut album Red, the 27-year-old Yorkshirewoman’s gig on her native turf is a proverbial capstone to the first act of her career. Ten years on from taking to the streets as a student busker, Trigwell’s star has grown in the intervening decade; even in the era of Soundcloud rappers, her DIY net success still feels like a standout victory, with moderate success home and more unexpected rewards abroad, particularly in Asia. Only earlier this month was she named BBC Introducing’s Artist of the Week, an accolade she almost seems abashed to mention, though it earns a whooping reception from the crowd when she does.

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If bigger things are to come though, then Trigwell could probably do with outfitting a full touring band behind her brand of melancholy indie-pop. While Red stretches its wings sonically, her live show remains resoundingly grounded in the solo singer-songwriter mode of guitar and loop pedal. Shorn of their on-record trimmings, her live renditions amplify the naked emotion of her songcraft on occasion – but it also leaves some cuts oddly weightless and wishy-washy.

Trigwell switches between acoustic and electric and it is on the latter that she feels most settled. I Blame You’s deft indie-rock licks are engaging earworms; centrepiece tearjerker Miss You comes with a ghostly, roots-blues intro reminiscent of the haunted fretwork of Mark Knopfler.

Such evocative renditions render others humdrum; Never Gonna Do That Again and Everything Will Be OK may come carrying solid pop hooks but they don’t measure up to the twiddly, Foals-akin afro-funk makeover given to club banger-in-waiting Taboo. Only the emotionally-charged Without You really impacts when she unplugs; delicate and pretty, it is the epitome of both her breathy delivery and lyrical darkness, a near-faultlessly judged blend of melody and verse.

Further success may well be beckoning; but Trigwell may have to widen her on-stage family to take it to the next level.

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