In the summer of 2012, I stumbled onto a cover of “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk and Pharrell and had one of those music paralysis moments when hearing the ethereal voice of Elena Tonra. It made me stop everything I was doing and actually listen to it. What followed after was a series of constant song repeats and lyrics search and a re-visitation of that voice and accompanying sounds to eternity and beyond.
But on the mildly cold evening of October 24th, Manchester Academy hosted them and I didn’t miss the chance to be one of the many listeners that shared an amazing (almost) two hours with them. Wilson is definitely what you call a perfect match as an opening act. Whimsical and atmospheric, there is a balance between the simple and grandiose, swaying from frail naked voice pitches to strong instrumental plunges that remind you of epic soundtracks. It didn’t really feel like an opening act per say, more like a beautifully combined duo act of symmetry where one flowed directly to the other. Wilson carries the beauty of a light breeze that unravels onto a magnificent storm of feelings exposed through the vocals of Tamsin Wilson.
After exactly thirty minutes of Wilson leaving the stage, along comes Daughter. Besides the lead singer Elena, drummer Remi and guitarist Igor, are a trio of brass instruments as well as a large metal pipe xylophone that produces sounds resembling those of a water glass played with your fingers. There are three large white canvas panels onto which moving images are projected and a well-positioned spotlight focused onto Tonra’s delicate face. There’s pure silence right before she opens her mouth and the whole venue is taken by her voice, opening with the single “New Ways”.
Although their most recent album “Not to Disappear” is a combination between slow indie sounds and fast played instruments that makes you feel a jolt of energy through your body, their signature still remains the poetic symbiosis of a never-ending voice that follows the instruments until the very last second of a song. Three songs in, they revert to their first album “If You Leave”, with songs like “Still”, “Smother”, “Touch”, they light up the crowd and you can feel this energy of comfort and joy when listening to the band’s favourites.
There’s this remarkable detail about Elena’s performance when she’s on stage, as if she is still in the studio recording each song for the fist time. She closes her eyes and there’s this beautiful shy smile on her lips whilst her head is slightly tilted towards the ceiling, a beating closed fist against her chest gently pounding to emphasise each word. There’s passion in this, devotion – and you can feel how powerful their music is.
They sing “Youth” and the communication between band and fans reach a climax with an almost chorus like feeling of all of the voices coming together muttering ‘setting fire to our insides for fun, / collecting names of the lovers that went wrong / the lovers that went wrong’ – absolutely magical.
The concert finishes with a roaring clap thundering through the walls, forcing them to return to the stage and they perform their pièce-de-résistance “Medicine” which had been widely requested throughout song interims and it’s an imprint like feeling, of words you have listened to so many times, they become one with your heartbeat and you feel free and accomplished in your soul.
There was no disappointment – maybe a little tiny one for not performing “Amsterdam”, a personal favourite. But that just made me think ‘I want more, I’ll come back for more, I need more’.
Although it was a large venue, it really felt like a personal intimate concert, in which we were all sitting down with crossed legs, around a fire, listening to this magnetic voice, telling us stories of the heart and soul and making us feel that all will be ok. And that is a powerful moment to attain when performing in front of a large mass of anxious souls.