Humility is a trait not often seen in artists, at least not authentically. Sometimes humility is perverted, it’s a useful sales tool if you’re the downtrodden relatable underdog, TV talent shows know this. Watch prime time TV on a Saturday night and you’ll get a production line of insecure mothers, nearly gangsters and carers of cancer stricken parents, all in the name of manufactured empathy.
Louise Distras however, is a humble soul who is genuinely thankful that the public in their small way allow her to ‘carry on her art’. Live she doesn’t sell us a sob story, in fact quite the opposite, you leave the “Louise Distras Show” (her, tongue in cheek, words) feeling you’ve helped out, that somehow by giving acknowledgment to the hopes, desires, sadness and fury in her songs the world may be a better place.
But first it’s The Shrives a four piece punk outfit in the vein of The Hives or The Buzzcocks. Visually they look the part with a 1979 era Robert Smith up front flanked by Wolfie from Citizen Smith and Wayne from Auf Wiedersehen Pet (Google them) with the drummer looking, and acting, like he was Keith Moon’s replacement. They were terrific and it is sure to be worthwhile checking out their newly released, Billy Joe Armstrong produced, album.
But once the stage had been cleared of, well…everything, on walked Louise Distras. No fanfare, no theme music, no gimmicks, just a Yorkshire lass and her electric guitar.
“Ey up Leeds”, three words to announce that the gathered audience were in the presence of one of their own and then, just to make sure “I’m Louise Distras and I’m from Wakefield”. While it may sound like a phrase uttered at the start of a narcotics anonymous meeting it did the trick and the first cheer of the night went up. Having pulled the core of the crowd forwards she started her act and raced fairly quickly through the first few tracks of her set, hitting a few of the fan favourites early on. Once she had settled in she started to interact with the (albeit small) crowd a bit more and this is where she really comes into her own. Louise Distras doesn’t get fans, she makes friends and it’s a testament to her songwriting skills that the songs allow the audience to feel like they get to know her in the short space of time she’s in front of them. Having explained about her Pledge campaign for the new album we were treated to a preview of some of the songs off it and it certainly sounds quality, a little more sensitive and even sentimental than her earlier stuff but still very much the Louise Distras who was on display tonight. Her voice was sound, her guitar playing bang on but those are secondary details in an evening where the line between artist and crowd became so thin as to not be noticed. As she finished she insisted the audience all wait for her so she could shake their hands and thank them and she meant it. Having failed to climb down from the stage she was straight round to the auditorium for what must’ve been 45 minutes of meet and great. This wasn’t an artist selling themselves to their public, this was a girl from Yorkshire showing her thanks the only way she knew how. Honest, heartfelt and charming, Louise Distras doesn’t know, how good she is, its good job we do.