She Makes War - The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

She Makes War - The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:
She Makes War - The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
She Makes War - The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Bristol’s Laura Kidd has been releasing music as She Makes War for the last 8 years, steadily amassing an army of fans. A slot supporting The Wave Pictures a couple of years ago and the album Direction of Travel showed me what I’d been missing. Fast forward to 2018 and Kidd is headlining the Brudenell Social Club in support of her brand new album, Brace for Impact.

With a selection of tuned handbells and a tiny xylophone already in place, it’s time we were introduced to tonight’s support act, California based indie-folk innovator Eliza Rickman. Joined by violinist Gregg Allison, there’s a quiet magic at play from the very start.

Dressed in a vintage gown and armed with a ukulele, Rickman oozes stage presence. On her website, she points out that if she had a dollar for every time someone compared her style to a classic Disney princess she could open up her own amusement park. Now it’s not exactly my forte but I’m pretty sure Cinderella never sang songs quite like this. The folky sincerity of Joan Baez filtered through Joanna Newsom otherworldliness.

As she breaks out the autoharp we’re drawn ever further into her unique, somewhat dreamlike world. There’s plenty of humour between the songs too. Introducing ‘Pretty Little Head’ she explains, “the concept is I’m Marie Antoinette and I’m looking for my head…it’s not for everyone”. Said song is performed entirely with xylophone and vocals. Beautiful and quietly unsettling.

The duo wrap things up with a medley of two songs, the blissfully romantic and gently hypnotic ‘Coming up Roses’ flowing effortlessly into the most gorgeous version of Johnny Cash classic ‘Ring of Fire’ you’re ever likely to hear. An intimate and thoroughly captivating performance.

“It’s nice to impress my parents for once” Kidd jokes as she tells us the good news. Brace for Impact, the latest She Makes War album, released on her own imprint and entirely funded by the fans, is currently 15 in the Independent Album Charts. She thanks everyone for supporting her, the night suddenly feeling like a well-deserved celebration.

The last time I saw Kidd she was playing solo but tonight She Makes War charges into battle as a five-piece band. Opening with the urgent, widescreen grunge-pop of ‘Drown Me Out’ before piling into the kickass garage rock of ‘Cold Shoulder’, the band seem intent on lifting the roof straight off the Brudenell.

The songs acting as cathartic, empowering and celebratory battle cries, bristling with emotion and boundless energy. With its massive, beefed-up riff ‘Devastate Me’ is easily one of the most fun rock songs I’ve heard this year while ‘Undone’ lays on the blistering fuzz-rock as Kidd’s heartfelt lyrics find strength in vulnerability.

The musically calmer moments are just as impressive. Tales of “nihilistic coffee drinking” precede the gorgeous ‘Then the Quiet Came’; a heart-breaking, personal and quietly breath-taking piece of songwriting. A solo, ukulele led ‘Paper Thin’ offering calm, meditative reassurance as Kidd sings, “I heal myself with friends and conversation”.

Apparently written in just 10 minutes the blissful yet determined ‘Fortify’ preaches solidarity and hope as it swirls around like fairground music in some kind of cosmic “space western” (Kidd’s description but it fits pretty perfectly). It’s one of many highlights in a set that seems to revel in the number of great songs at her disposal.

The Brudenell crowd is enraptured and thoroughly absorbed throughout; this is powerful, life-affirming, DIY music at its finest. It’s a sign of a good show when I find myself walking away feeling substantially better than when I arrived, a copy of the new album safely held under my arm.

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