“It’s not the years, honey. It’s the mileage” remarked Indiana Jones, and Stella Donnelly may have some sympathy with this sardonic concept. Since the release of her debut album Beware of the Dogs back in March, the Australian has criss-crossed the globe more times than she probably cares to remember, no doubt to the chagrin of a mutinous body clock. You could therefore be forgiven for thinking that this brutal touring regime would eventually start to take its toll. Almost exactly one year to the day since her last visit to Halifax and several thousand miles in-between, Stella has an opportunity to demonstrate that there is still plenty of fuel left in the tank.
As she strides on to Square Chapel’s ample stage space, Stella Donnelly is certainly pleased to see more than the handful of souls who witnessed her previous show in the Yorkshire town, although it is worth bearing in mind that a handful is pretty much The Lantern’s capacity. Despite the roomier Square Chapel not being full to capacity, there’s well over a hundred souls in attendance who have clearly been affected by the audacious spirit of Beware of the Dogs, as well as the burgeoning reputation of her live performances.
To be honest, this is almost a carbon copy of her Manchester show back in April, but that doesn’t detract from the entertainment on offer – Donnelly possesses an easy-going charm that is infectious and she has that rare ability of making an instant and honest connection with an audience in an intimate venue. This is further enhanced by a collection of songs that perfectly compliment this down-to-earth personality.
Performing solo for the first few tracks allows the spiky prose of ‘Mechanical Bull’, ‘You Owe Me’ and ‘Beware of the Dogs’ to take centre stage amidst fluid melodies that become more barbed as vocals crack, and the songs crest on waves of addled irritation. Stella’s vocals are magnetic in these early moments, traversing with ease across these song’s brittle, boisterous and more brutal moments before her band arrive on stage, enhancing the levity of this evening’s performance as Donnelly spars and jokes between each song.
This lighthearted approach is a perfect foil to the more sober moments in the set list, and the extended introduction to ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ places Stella’s lyrics in an unambiguous context that demands to be heard. The brilliantly jaunty ‘Tricks’ follows but this may not be the best spot when we’re perhaps still processing the previous track to fully appreciate this lyrically nimble song. Before you know it the Australian has bounded off the stage, minus her cover of ‘Time After Time’ which has been a feature of many of her shows. The smiles were genuine and the songs uniquely affecting, but perhaps this was just a small sign of jetlag finally kicking in.
Words & Images by Iain Fox