Hot off the tracks of Rough Trade announcing that Party was their record of the year, Aldous Harding’s sold-out Islington Assembly Hall gig managed to be an explosive deep-dive into the New Zealander’s psyche.
Though I hesitate to admit as such, I almost didn’t go. For reasons relating more to travel costs than the adoration I feel for this woman’s art. It’s trial and error that has taught me, the hard way, what happens if you miss out on a gig you want to be present at. I’m so fucking glad I went.
Raw and intrinsic connection to music aside, Aldous Harding’s party, so to speak, is my sort of party. Ask me? A party isn’t a party unless questions like, “What if birds aren’t singing they’re screaming?” come up at least once.
They should do, and with Aldous’s music, they do at a rate of at least two times per track. More than satisfiable for a true, beer pong-less party.
What struck me about Aldous Harding, the first time I saw her on Jools Holland, was her fervent performance style. Not only is she the creator of her art, but the vessel from which it comes. And it does, in its transcendental way, making it no shock while also the severe joy of Angelo Badalamenti’s Laura Palmer’s Theme being included in the pre-show setlist.
In person, her voice is pitch-for-pitch and tone-for-tone what it is on the record. Slouched back in her chair in her signature white pants, adding the wo-to-manspreading and her beautiful guitar affixed to her breast, as soon as she used her voice, the crowd went silent.
It’s always been fascinating to me when finger-picking is unbridled and effortless, a likely offshoot of an alt-folk background but looking fucking cool to a girl who’d live and die to Spinal Tap an amp up to eleven. Not once does she falter, not once does she fall. Eyes focused on one person at one time, her vocal range flows like it’s direct from the record and yet brand new all at once.
For Aldous Harding, refreshingly, the importance of appearance matters none. Any face pulled is one pulled in an effort to extend her message to the masses and, with a smile to the side of the stage at friends at the unnecessary addition of a man yelling marry me, it’s not hard to be annoyed at them and more enveloped inside. Because all women in music are for, after all, is to be an object for men to look at.
After playing Horizon, she took off her jacket to further wolf whistles and another, close to me, mumbling, “She’s all right.” Because again, that’s what matters when there’s an incredible artist taking it to the next level; one that teases gooseflesh into existence and has the mind escape the passage of time.
At one point, for Blend, her tone switches from ethereal pixie to a Nouvelle Vague starlet of the 60s. Jane Birkin or Anna Karina. She sways behind the microphone, settling back with her guitar not too long after for another song.
Maybe the next time I see her, the crowd will join in with the raucous “Hey!”s in Imagining My Man and, if not, I’ll be surprised. Aldous Harding is a star on the rise and I’m not sure what those are called if shooting ones stretch across the sky.
And, if the new song — Pilot — played as the encore is anything to go by, Aldous Harding’s career in music is going to fly.
GET ‘PARTY‘ BY ALDOUS HARDING