Gig review: Daughter at Leeds Beckett University

Daughter. Picture: Sonny Malhotra
Daughter. Picture: Sonny Malhotra
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Storm Gertrude was lashing Leeds. Wheelie bins being blown over. Plastic bags swirling round the city centre. Rain lashing against numerous coffee shop windows. The city was descending into a mild form of chaos.

Of course, as everyone knows, the best place to seek shelter from such a meteorological phenomenon is to seek out and stay in the eye of the storm. A location of apparent sanctuary, solitude and infinite calm. And precisely the kind of location you would expect to find London band Daughter.

Touring to support their second album Not to Disappear, this gig at Beckett University was one of a string of dates that the band, a truly European affair, were playing. Truly European because alongside north London singer Elena Tonra, are Swiss-born guitarist Igor Haefeli and French drummer Remi Aguilella, a trio who arrived on the scene nearly four years ago with pretty much as big a bang as their melancholic, ethereal sound achieves, single Youth being the standout, from first album If You Leave.

When Daughter supported that album in Leeds it was to a packed Town Hall. Such an atmospheric venue, their music perfectly suited to the vast space, the organ pipes, lighting and on stage smoke. This current venue was both smaller and lacked that perfect environment for Daughter to create the aura of the more grandiose stage.

From a low key stage entrance and first song How, the band are perfectly aligned musically. Tonra has a hint of Sinead O’Connor about her voice, haunting with a shy personality, restrained. So restrained in fact that anything she said in between songs was largely indiscernible, with fortunately the rest of the band seemingly able to catch it and appear to be genuinely enjoying the experience.

The set list skips between their two albums, How is an upbeat entrance and guitar led opening, Tomorrow quieter, calmer. New song Alone / With You is a lyrical triumph from their latest record, as is Human from their debut and then Doing the Right Thing. Daughter are essentially an indie band with more than a strong hint of The XX vibe, Balthazar’s guitar sound and a polished production bringing many layers to their songs.

That production was lacking somewhat during this live performance, meaning that by the time the set heads towards a conclusion with stand out track of the night New Ways, leading into Youth and finale Fossa, the tunes had started to merge into each other somewhat. The XX will always have the advantage of Jamie XX’s invention, which is always conveyed during live sets. Daughter have that level of creativity in abundance but perhaps it was the venue, perhaps the vocals hadn’t been left on ‘distinctive’ setting but they never quite caught the moment on the evening.

Not to Disappear is a great album, as was Daughter’s debut. It would be entirely reasonable to expect any subsequent offerings to be full of the same exquisite quality, each track standing out for a different reason. They provide the calm before, during and after the storm. A constant sonic landscape which at times can seem a foreboding place to tread, such is the gloom and retrospective nature of the songs but one that is ultimately rewarding, providing a place of solace from the maelstrom that rages in the outside world.