On March 31st, indie folk artist Esme Bridie concluded her touring premiere at the FortyFive Vinyl Café in York. Promoting her debut LP, the stunning ‘Today It Rains’, which has received unanimously glowing reviews, expectations were high.
Supporting Esme were three local unsigned artists. Acoustic indie-folk guitarist Zak Ford opened the evening. Breath-taking vocalist Ava Rose then made her first ever gig appearance, accompanied by guitarist Pete Hyndman. Their stellar sets helped to draw an enormous crowd given the intimate size of the venue. The café became even more crammed as Esme’s set drew nearer, building a palpable atmosphere of anticipation.
Esme’s band consisted of Jay Taylor on electric guitar, Danny Sanders on drums and Beth O’Lenihan on bass. Incredibly, Beth, covering for another musician who was unable to attend, had learnt Esme’s entire album specifically for the gig. The band, who met studying music at the University of Leeds, gave exceptional performances. Well, that’s only as it should be when working with talent like Esme.
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The set opened with the poignant ‘Old Love (How Did We Get This Way)’. Starting out with minimal instrumentals, drawing attention to Esme’s captivating voice, it then builds into a chorus bursting with feeling. A perfect choice of opening song. Next was the superb ‘Big Brown Boots’, the exclusion of which from digital copies of the album adds additional incentive to the purchase of the vinyl.
Of all the songs on the album, that which most demands live performance is ‘Tower of Regret’. That being so, placing it third on the setlist could have meant an early apex and later anti-climax. On the contrary, it was spectacular, but the remainder of the set was no less brilliant. In stark contrast, next came an acoustic performance of ‘Only Lonely People’. Though not Esme’s most political song, it offers equally powerful commentary on the condition of modern existence. Based around the unfulfilling relationships that people find themselves in while waiting to fall in love, the solo performance, with the exception of backing vocals by Jay Taylor, felt wholly appropriate. It captured sense of isolation despite proximity to others conveyed so movingly in the lyrics perfectly, and the audience seemed to hang on Esme’s every word.
The listing was consistently well chosen. The fifth song on the set was the beautiful ‘Only Young’, in which the attention Esme draws to her youth – she is only nineteen – is rendered almost ironic by the particularly strong display of her uncommon intelligence and worldliness. Again only available on vinyl, it’s well worth the purchase for those in possession of a turntable. Sixth was ‘In Love With The City’, which, in its celebration of the uncomplicated joy of urban nights, must have resonated as much in London, Manchester and Leeds as in York and in Esme’s home city of Liverpool.
After such an upbeat song, the following, Precious Life, inspired by a tragic news story and exploring the fragility of existence, was all the more moving. Ingeniously, this preceded ‘The Queen Bee’, Esme’s daring statement on exploitation in capitalist society. Possibly the only thing that could make it more powerful than it was on the album was to place it immediately after a reminder of the value of life, making for the most thought-provoking performance of the evening.
Finally, Esme concluded with gorgeous renditions of the first and final track of the first side of the record, the nostalgic ‘Strangers’ and empowering ‘Self Destructive’. Accepting the audience’s chants of “one more song!” with modest gratitude, as her band retired to the audience, she gave an enchanting solo performance of ‘What You Had Yesterday’. Being the song from which the title of the album derives, it made an ideal end to the night.
All in all, an electric evening with consistently excellent performances from all involved. An emerging musician couldn’t wish for a more triumphant end to a debut tour.
You can follow Esme on Facebook at esmebridiemusic. You can also follow her support at zakfordmusic and avarosevox.
‘Today It Rains’ is out now via Klee Music on iTunes and Spotify and at kleemusic.co.uk/shop