As Aldous Harding takes to the stage, clad in a heavy winter coat despite the venue’s heat, you could hear a pin drop. The New Zealander hasn’t played a single note, yet her mere presents means you could already cut the tension with a knife.
She’s here in support of her second album Party, a beautifully crafted minimalist album of dark and brooding ballads, something that’s reflected in tonight’s show. Harding barely says a word to the crowd instead letting her music do the talking.
The set draws mainly from her new record; in fact one of the only omissions, criminally, is ‘Horizon’, yet she more than makes up for it. ‘Blend’ and ‘I’m So Sorry’ are both haunting affairs, accompanied merely by an acoustic guitar and the occasional piano her many-timbred voice takes centre stage, piercing the atmosphere like the sound of ice-cold can of Coke opening on a hot day.
‘Imagining My Man’ juxtaposes tender, gently picked guitars with the chorus’ jubilant shouts of “hey”. Whilst during ‘What If Birds Aren’t Singing They’re Screaming’, Harding, now having rid her winter coat and dressed entirely in white, stalks the stage. She holds the audience in the palm of her hand with her almost menacing stare, as though she is taking on the part of the ghost she sings of (or should that be the angel).
Finally, for the encore Harding takes to the piano alone. Quashing the tradition of playing your most popular song last, she instead uses the opportunity to showcase new song ‘Pilot’, which builds on Party’s themes of love, loss and yearning. It’s clear that the album’s follow up will be just as melancholic.
And then she’s gone almost too soon, allowing the captivated audience to bathe in the ominous atmosphere that she’s created, the memory of this sombre party will certainly linger long after she’s left the stage.
Image: Live Nation