“Tonight, we’re taking you to the lodge… The Travelodge!” quips a blazer-clad Rebecca Taylor, charismatic and glam lead singer of Self Esteem, and erstwhile Slow Club lady. She needn’t worry- she may be “common as fook”, but she and the band are a class act.
Playing songs from Compliments Please, the debut album as this project, Self Esteem flit between imperious pop which slinks along R ‘n’ B diva lines (opener Rollout) or tentative euphoria (Girl Crush) but it’s when the Afrobeat experimentation gets pushed front and centre that they really soar, as with The Best.
Some iffy dance moves aside, they are a slick but passionate act. Taylor’s gorgeous, soulful voice carries the weight of romantic rejection – ”You want me to be needy, but I only need me”, she sings in Steady I Stand – but there’s a sense of anthemic empowerment there too.
She silences the room with a stunning version of She Reigns, sung a cappella at first, but building to a mantra-like refrain of self-affirmation and tenacity in its repeated line, “I won’t give up on you”. It’s bruising, beautiful and rather exposing. If Taylor’s showing her diary entries, we’re all in it together, cringing, laughing and recognising the soft, vulnerable parts that are often hidden. It’s endearing, above all.
Love hurts, but these perfectly crafted pop songs about relationships will still stick around in the morning. Just don’t expect breakfast.