Thursday, March 14, 2024

Holly Humberstone - From Glastonbury to Leicester, via the World

Holly Humberstone crept into the public eye in 2019, performing at a music festival in Somerset, England which might sound familiar - Glastonbury. 

With such a prestigious launch, thanks to BBC Music Introducing, success was sure to follow for the former violinist of the Lincolnshire Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Those days are far behind now as Humberstone’s music has matured into a cross-generational mix of pop and rock which some have compared to Lorde and Bon Iver. The minimum age for tickets was listed as 8 - not a typo but a reference to the very broad age range that her music appeals to. Older members of the audience might even hear Humberstone’s live performance as a fusion of Bryan Adams and Vanessa Carlton.

The crowd at Leicester’s O2 Academy were amply warmed up by the punchy, sometimes raucous, sometimes mellow sounds of Medium Build, a duo led by Nick Carpenter whose trans-atlantic roots blend country with punk to produce a rich, varied, soul-searching set featuring songs such as ‘Gimme Back My Soul’, ‘In My Room’ and ‘Rage’.

After a brief pause to reset the stage, Holly Humberstone strode confidently out in front of the huge neon sign spelling out her name, just in case any of her tremendously excited fans were in any doubt. It was an interesting touch for an artist who otherwise displays such humanity, accessibility and down-to-Earthness, all balanced with a graceful ease as she expanded into the whole performance space.

Opening with the title track from her first studio album, ‘Paint MBedroom Black’, Humberstone presented a lively, colourful, entertaining fan sing-a-long mixing familiar songs and new compositions. ‘Cocoon’ saw a return to the stage for Nick Carpenter as a duet partner, the acoustic guitar was swapped for electric for ‘Deep End’ and Humberstone took to the keyboard for ‘London is Lonely’, showcasing her great versatility and skill with the various instruments and even more varied song choices.

Fan favourites ‘The Walls Are Way Too Thin’, ‘Deep End’ and ‘Falling Asleep at the Wheel’ added to a set totalling 20 songs, delivered effortlessly and with a powerfully intimate connection with the audience.

In between some of the songs, Humberstone shared a little of her own story, releasing music during COVID lockdown and seeing an unexpected response on social media, then struggling with the isolation of moving to London to pursue her career. Through and throughout the music there was a subtext of Humberstone’s journey leading to her solo tour, a journey that hasn’t always been easy but one which has obviously brought her great joy as was evident in her reaction to the fans who joined in with the songs which formed a soundtrack to their own lives.

Humberstone mentioned that a new EP, ‘Work in Progress’ is in the works and previewed the first track, ‘Dive’. An obligatory encore delighted the crowd with ‘Friendly Fire’ and ‘Scarlett’ and the audience dissolved back into the night, leaving Holly Humberstone to continue her tour which takes her across the UK and US into the late summer with festival appearances in the UK and Europe. The ‘Work In Progress’ EP is available from 15th March.

Peter Freeth



Images: Peter Freeth

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