Laura Kidd, better known as She Makes War, started her limited run of full-band shows at Birmingham’s Sunflower Lounge to tie in with the release of new single ‘Stargazing’ and to showcase some all-new material.
Kidd, in all her talents, is shouldering most of the responsibility this evening. Not only has she written the music, produced her newest album (Direction of Travel, released back in April ‘16) and assembled a band, she is also the promoter for this event, driver for the tour, and tonight’s opening act. She even managed to make time to chat with us about touring, her do-it-yourself ethos and why she is so fond of Birmingham.
“I used to play acoustic when I was shit,” Kidd’s opening solo set is relaxed, personal and intimate. Her self-deprecation is not an uncomfortable plea for mercy from the crowd, but a way of showing how confident she is in how far she has come. Songs like‘Delete Myself’ explore the mire of breaking up in the digital age; Kidd layers her sweet voice over itself, creating ethereal gentle rhythms pierced by the siren of a megaphone. It marks a more experimental point in a set of earnest and revealing songwriting.
Luckless is the next act and the stage name for Ivy Rossiter. Coming to us from New Zealand via Berlin, Luckless is a friend and fan of tonight’s headliner. Where Kidd kept picking up and putting down anything with strings on it, Luckless sticks with a single old Japanese guitar with a rich, full tone.
Her sound is based around looping different electric guitar sounds, using different pedals to construct a rich foundation for her warm, powerful voice. Only once did the looping method go wrong and she was fighting against some messy sounds, but that was one misstep in an otherwise slick set.
For the full She Makes War trio, Laura Kidd picks up a bass guitar – the only thing on stage that she hasn’t already made use of – and looks out through glam-rock eye makeup over her mic. Together, the three range from dark and atmospheric to pounding riffs and squealing solos.
This is not what her previous set would lead you to expect at all. This is an altogether different side to She Makes War, something between the grand vision of her recorded output and the intimacy of her solo performance. It has the power and punch of a slick single with the raw edges of a stripped-back live setup.
The sonic landscape is dominated by the heavy guitar sound, “he does have Jonny Greenwood’s hair” says Kidd of her bandmate. He’s got Greenwood’s sound, too; the nasal jangle from ‘My Iron Lung’ features more than once tonight and Radiohead’s influence on the ensemble sound is obvious on songs like ‘Weary Bird’. When things get heavy, they sound like Smashing Pumpkins if they’d had a Riot Grrrl vocalist. In the quieter moments, the sparse guitar makes room for Kidd’s lilt to take the focus.
The main problem with the full trio is that Laura Kidd’s voice – and, in a lot of ways, the songs themselves – get a bit lost amongst the raucous cacophony of chunky riffs and pounding beats. Her sweet and melodic vocals feel better suited to the smaller acoustic singer/songwriter setting, or the Metric-style fusion of trip-hop and indie pop in some of her recorded material. To be fair to Kidd, she did mention she was suffering with a cold and qualified that “[she hates] when singers say ‘oh, I’m sorry, I have a cold’”. Given that fact, she did an excellent job.
When Laura Kidd is alone and in full control – even with limited equipment – it is evident that she is an artist with a grand vision and the technical know how to make it a reality. When she gives up some of that control, the pieces just don’t fit together as well as they should.
For more on She Makes War, visit www.shemakeswar.com
For more on Luckless, visit www.luckless.co.nz
For more from The Sunflower Lounge, visit www.thesunflowerlounge.com