Almost two years in the making, this Bryde tour, like much of life, had to be postponed back in 2020. The focus of these shows was going to be the promotion of The Volume of Things, released to high acclaim in May of that year. Sadly, the college-rock inspired momentum this album generated back then has been lost and The Deaf Institute is only half full this evening. Let us hope that with a new album imminent, the enthusiasm for this wonderful musician is reinvigorated.
As a result of the release of Still due out on 15th July,the character of this evening’s concert is slightly different to what we may have experienced back in 2020. Sarah Howells has stated that “it’s the music I’m most proud of to date” and we get a taste of the new direction with a couple of numbers from the record, in the form of ‘Algorithms’ and the tender ‘Silver Suns’ which rolls gently along a bed of silky keys before the song’s more electrified conclusion. There’s something more restrained in Sarah’s vocals, more cultured perhaps; this may be something to do with a tickly cough she battles this evening, but there’s also a nod to figures of inspiration – the significance of Tori Amos is not lost during this song and it is unsurprising when the iconic ‘Silent All These Years’ follows in reverential fashion.
Prior to these more restrained moments, which may be a sign of the direction of the new record, the focus initially is very much on the 2020 record. The peppy ‘Paper Cups’ opens the evening and two years later the Jane Wiedlin similarities can still not be shaken. This is followed by the enigmatic ‘Silence’ which really demonstrates Sarah’s vocal beauty and gift of melody. It’s a highlight on The Volume of Things and it has that distinction this evening.
Focussing on this album for the opening third of the show generates a colourful aesthetic to proceedings but the evening shifts dramatically as Sarah and her band return to material that demonstrated her new direction upon leaving the pop-folk of her band Paper Aeroplanes. ‘Wouldn’t That Make You Feel Good’ is austere and sombre. ‘Peace’, ‘Honey’ and ‘To Be Loved’ are more hostile and Sarah’s guitar shifts with ease between this emotional geography.
The heartbreak of ‘Wait’ is just as beguiling as it was back in 2016. Has it really been that long since the songs like this and ‘To Be Brave’ were released? Bryde may have taken one or two subtle shifts in direction over that time, but she has always had the capacity to captivate through her wounded fragility and gritty, discordant guitar and tonight is no different. The new material hints at a more cultured approach but she’s developing such a varied catalogue of material, her shows will always be one to savour.