One sure way to tell how well a debut album is anticipated: how many people can it bring out to a gig on a cold, grim Sunday evening? In the case of Self Esteem and her first solo album Compliments Please, enough to fill the venue. Despite also having already played at Rough Trade earlier in the week, Nottingham clearly can’t get enough of Rebecca Taylor, and I am inclined to agree.
Self Esteem is the solo incarnation of Rebecca, previously part of folk duo Slow Club. Compliments Please tells the story of a woman breaking free, and being her true unapologetic self; a theme not only central to the album, but also her live performance. After the bustling crowd has piled their way into The Bodega, the lights go down and people scream excitedly. The band walk onto the stage, including two female backing singers both wearing t-shirts saying 'squirt isn't pee', just in case the audience didn't know what to expect from this show. Rebecca herself then rises to the stage, to a warm excited applause.
Far from the slow twee sound of Slow Club, Self Esteem’s R&B and hip hop infused pop sound is full of wit and audacity, as well as being striking vulnerable. It is a sound that is so authentically Rebecca, something which the crowd clearly love and appreciate from her. I have rarely seen such a diverse crowd feel so close to an artist, and also have so much banter and chatter with them. In a hilarious moment, after having started the deeply moving She Reigns, someone in the crowd sneezes, Rebecca says bless you, and goes on to recommend garlic tablets for a cold. After a slight detour, and some chuckles, she gets back to the song.
It is clear and refreshing to see how much this gig and this tour means to her. Every time she catches someone singing the words to her songs, a grin breaks through her focused stage face. That said she maintains exactly what she told me a few weeks ago when I spoke to her -this is certainly not just a gig, but a show, with a variety of tricks up her sleeve. From the band all getting out their phones in the middle of Your Wife, a refreshing way of reminding the audience to engage with their surroundings (not that this crowd needed that), to choreography and dancing; some of which was more effective than others.
However the gig ends on the most successful trick of them all - a second encore song (I'm Shy), off the stage, performed acoustically in the middle of the crowd. It perfectly encompasses the whole gig and what Self Esteem is all about; authenticity, boldness and rawness. When an artist is so amazingly unapologetic, it is hard not to love them.
Self Esteem played The Bodega on Sunday 10 March
Relatability is having a moment. But artist and musician Rebecca Taylor doesn’t even need to try. Going under the name of Self Esteem and with her debut album Compliments Please out on in March, we caught up with Rebecca to talk touring, Instagram and Kanye…