It’s been 4 years since She Makes War’s last long-player Little Battles and much seems changed to Laura Kidd’s fortunes. Relocating to Bristol 3 and a half years years ago, tonight feels like a cathartic homecoming for an artist who’s steadily become one of the South West’s most cherished songwriters. Kidd beams and jokes for much of the show (which celebrates upcoming record Direction of Travel with no little aplomb bolstered by guitars, bass, drums and keys) and there’s little wonder why.
Entering the fray like Elastica and Sleater-Kinney twitching wide-eyed on too many e-numbers, ‘Cold Shoulder’ is an immediate sugarbuzz thrill, all jackhammer guitar riffs, powerhouse drums and Kidd’s wry acerbic vocals. It boasts the put-down couplet of the year too – “What’s coming for me? / Ex-girlfriend or STD?” We’re hooked.
‘Alone’ and ‘In Cold Blood’ are darker, more considered; the former marrying push-pull polyrhythms with woozy shoegaze guitar textures into a chorus that her nu-gaze luminaries could only dream of writing, whilst the latter might be She Makes War’s bleakest moment to date, a towering, punishing treatise on betrayal and regret. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions already, and we’re only three songs deep.
Little Battles’ centrepiece ‘Delete’ follows, its melancholy a cappella tapestry built delicately solely on Kidd’s live vocal loops. That it’d sit comfortably alongside Bjork’s Medulla goes only some way to describe what a revelation it is. Audience firmly in the palm of her hand, Kidd strides confidently offstage and into the Thekla crowd mid song, megaphone aloft, and the crowd duly parts, grown men stunned and mouths aghast as she purrs the song’s lead refrain “I’d like to delete myself / Don’t like to repeat myself.” All eyes on Kidd, she returns to the stage and the song ends with little warning to a full house’s adoration that runs and runs. It’s a truly special moment.
Stripped back to just the bare minimum on ‘Delete,’ upcoming single ‘Paper Thin’ and ‘Please Don’t’ – a heart-stealing torch song that lays bare her fears of parents growing old and dying – we’re reminded why we fell in love with She Make War in the first place. Kidd is so intimate, so vulnerable yet never defeated or broken, so fearless in leaving her soul to bare, and speaks such heartbreaking truths in her cascading melodies whether alone, guitar or ukulele in hand, or flanked by her band. She truly is the star.
Powerhouse versions of ‘I Am’ and the heady strut of new single ‘Drown Me Out’ kick like racehorses before Kidd brings the night to a close with the skyscraping ‘Stargazing’ and the hushed last goodbye of ‘The Best.’ The audience is visibly moved as is she in her thanks as she leaves the stage smiling ear to ear – which goes some way to showing us that (somehow) she doesn’t know how good she is yet. This won’t be our secret for too much longer.
Check out ‘Drown Me Out’ right here: