Esben & The Witch: Soup Kitchen, Manchester

Although their name comes from a Danish fairytale, Esben & The Witch are a real, palpable and deep semblance of musical artistry and feelings. Existing since 2008 under the record label Matador Records, they have are back in business, live touring across the globe.

They’re known for their poetic and enchanted lyrics waiving through soft guitar within the first minutes of the song, fluctuating onto the voice of Rachel Davies only, climaxing in a violent rush of electric arms pounding against strings and cymbals where you feel engulfed by a feeling of despair that eases onto a state of acceptance.

The group consists of the voice of Rachel Davies, who also plays the bass, Thomas Fisher as the guitarist and Daniel Copeman as the drummer. Although originally Daniel was the guitarist, they have permanently kept him as the man behind the drums, as well as controlling electronics.

If you know Soup Kitchen, it’s a rather small venue, with bare walls, windows covered in black fabric, a wooden stage slighlty elevated to the floor and a crowd that can be as random as a wild card. You could see young people with their hip haircuts, older people who simply love music and concert atmosphere and, surprisingly, a majority of female fans. There were a lot of women in this concert, some of them on their own, some of them with large groups of friends, but proudly shaking their heads to the sound of Esben & The Witch. There was a peculiar smell in the air, incense, as if we had just walked into a cabin in the woods, surrounded by mist and eager souls.

The group come up on stage and they seem very cohese in their looks, all wearing black head to toe. Spotlights only focusing very specifically on their faces and all looking very individually connected throughout looks and nods. They open the concert with Rachel’s voice, singing “Dig Your Fingers In”, her eyes staring upwards, pursed lips in between words, eyes following.

There’s a whimsical energy invading the venue, their intense performance, the crowd moving to the sounds of the music, you feel as if you swing with every movement of their chords, a delicate yet powerful voice luring you in deeper and deeper.

Halfway through the gig they give us “Marching Song”, a song so powerful it has the whole venue enticed in it. Rachel moves back and forwards towards the mic, from the bottom of her Dr. Martens to the top of her dark natural hair contrasting with pale porcelain complexion. There is a moment of stillness, as if everything stopped for a second, in that elongated silence where all you could hear was faint breathing against the mic and a very shy drum beating in the back. All comes roaring down with all instruments joining in this plethora of feelings.

Although their live performance is raw and unapologetic, which is a sincere portrait of who they are, you can see a difference between live and recorded. Their studio material works better in terms of ticking all the boxes. There’s a rewind button, there’s a controlled environment where there’s less mistakes to be made. But still, they pull it through in live act, making it up in presence what may feel “untucked” in sound engineering.

One thing was clear, the group works well together, Rachel being the centre of the stage, not only in presence but also in keeping it going. There’s a lot effort put in by the lead singer and she definitely makes a mark.

In a time where the music industry seems to be inclining more towards indie, solo acts, what Esben & The Witch bring to the table is a brave act. The type of music they offer was very hype when they started, almost 10 years ago, but now seems to have reached a bit of a tipping point. Nevertheless, the amount of people, not only in a live environment, but also that vastly follow them in social media and on music platforms is astounding.

I would actually call it a breath of fresh air, with their hippyish surroundings, Scandinavian name and looks and their mystical lyrics, Esben & The Witch are certainly a one of a kind act that deserves all the attention you can give.