Following in Julia Jacklin and Stella Donnelly’s footsteps, Lucy Dacus’ return to Manchester completes a trio of impressive shows Thank Folk For That have attended recently in Yes’ Pink Room. Each show has had different qualities to wax lyrical about, reinforcing the sheer character of the broad range of female singer-songwriters presently gracing our airwaves.
Liz Lawrence is an unknown member of this group to this writer, but her brief support slot suggests that that anonymity won’t last. The debut record of gently symphonic acoustic folk back in 2013 is deceptive and clattering backing tracks are served by Lawrence’s incisive and angular electric guitar tonight, but it’s her muscular vocals that are the most satisfying aspect of her material. ‘Woman’ is a particularly lean gothic highlight, with all kinds of vocal influences including Lana Del Rey and Sharon Van Etten rattling around the stirring lyrics.
Lucy Dacus arrives to a loud and enthusiastic welcome and she cracks that nervous yet appreciative smile before performing a completely new solo track. It turns out even the bassist has not heard this one before. Unsurprisingly, it’s full of the canny, unsentimental lyrics that her fans connect to and as the song ends the band arrive arrive on stage for the more animated ‘Addiction’. There’s a college rock timbre to proceedings and Lucy and her band enjoy the opportunity to spar off against each other during the bridges of the song.
Lucy Dacus has a sophisticated skill in constructing fragile and restrained ballads that morph into completely different beasts. ‘Nonbeliever’, taken from 2018’s Historian, is one such song. The quiet intro allows the Manchester crowd to appreciate the lyrical prowess of the song and in many cases quietly sing the lyrics back to the Virginia native, but these personal themes can’t be contained and Lucy’s distorted telecaster kicks into life to reinforce the muscular college rock tones which contrast with Dacus’ elegant vocals. The contrast between the two genres is incredibly satisfying, and it is during these moments when Lucy’s vocals start to soar that this concert reaches its vital peaks. Considering these strengths, the choice to cover ‘La Vie En Rose’ is inspired and the outcome is a delight!
The band slink off leaving Lucy to perform another unrehearsed solo track, suggesting a more lo-fi approach possibly on any future record. Lucy’s guitarist returns to sit cross-legged on the stage to accompany the latest single, ‘My Mother and I’ and this gently undulating song reinforces this concept.
Bizarrely, one of Lucy’s Richmond high-school classmates happens to be in attendance this evening, which understandably befuddles the singer-songwriter. Her material is very personal and she is singing about an era and individuals that this school pal will recognise. This is particularly the case with ‘Night Shift’ and Lucy Dacus acknowledges that her classmate will know exactly who this song is written about! We’re also informed that she hurt her voice the other night and would appreciate a little bit of help at the top end. The crowd’s response to the request clearly astonishes her; they sing every word and when the song’s fuzzy conclusion kicks in, the crowd have those impassioned top ends covered in style, underlining why this is considered by many to be one of the best songs of 2018.
It may have only been a few months since Lucy and her dynamic band played the same venue, but when it’s this good they’re welcome to return every week!
Words & Images by Iain Fox