Daughter // LIVE // Hackney Empire, 24th January 2013

It is uncommon for a sold out 1,300-capacity venue to be so quiet during a live performance that one has to assume the audience are holding their breath.

Daughter step onstage to play their biggest headline show to date without a word. They pick up instruments, check them over, make some small adjustments and, without looking up, begin playing them. A hush descends such that you could hear a pin drop, a sound that would not be unlike their opening number’s delicate guitar melody.

The stillness and silence continue as frontwoman Elena Tonra, for whom Daughter began life as a solo project, fills this spectacular venue with her exquisite breathy voice on Landfill and spine-tingling live favourite Run. We’re silent, because we don’t want to miss a single note or whispered word.

But the band start to worry.

Is everyone okay?” says Elena in a tiny voice. She looks frightened and overawed by the occasion. “There are so many of you here!” In return the crowd cheer, clap and whoop. Mostly because we want to reassure her that she and her band are doing a wonderful job. In fact, we’re falling more in love with them by the minute. “Thank you all for coming” she continues, as if she can’t quite believe it.

Daughter

There is an odd juxtaposition here. When the band play their dainty, fragile and intensely personal songs it is an exercise in perfection.

French drummer Remi Aguilella does more than keep time with a range of innovative percussion techniques (employing sticks, brushes, those sticks with balls of fluff on the end, cloths, cymbals laying on drums, cymbals laying on cloths on drums – he’s incredible); Swiss guitarist Igor Haefeli brings an ocean of sound through heavily effect-laden guitar, and Elena; well, she’s perfection personified – a slight and mesmerising presence with the voice of an angel.

In between songs, though, Daughter are awkward, painfully shy and clumsy. Like teenagers on a first date. They catch themselves doing things they wish they hadn’t and berate themselves; “Did they have mini-icecreams in the interval? I love them!” Elena asks before realising she is on the biggest stage of her band’s short life so far and stops herself; “Why am I talking about icecream!? Stop talking about icecream!” She thinks she’s ruining this wonderful night, in fact it is this charming and disarming clumsiness which makes her and her band even more attractive.

Candles and Love echo around the space with poise and grandeur, then Elena hits herself in the face while trying to adjust her earpiece. A second later they play Youth and a girl next to SGTMT begins to cry. These things don’t go together. It’s all too much.

It has been a while since we have seen a band play songs that make the hairs on the back of our necks stand up as regularly as Daughter do tonight. Every word sung is heartfelt. The twin guitars give us intertwined melodies that shimmer in the spotlights. The inclusion of bass, which is shared between the trio, adds another dimension. They are gloriously tight, and those songs, well, they have all become well-loved in the absence till now of a wealth of material. Every one is treasured.

Tonight we hear three songs from Daughter’s eagerly anticipated debut If You Leave LP which is due in March. They show a development of the sound they have patiently made their own over the last few years. But they still have Elena’s bruised and dark lyrics. Every one still has a perfectly executed hook that we want to stuff in a bag and take home tonight. March can’t come soon enough.

After a polite request to ignore a song if it goes wrong a note or two do actually go astray. They don’t gloss over it as most would – Igor and Elena exchange an obvious embarrassed glance. From anyone else it would be unprofessional. “I feel I need to acknowledge my wrong notes, sorry” Igor says afterwards. Here’s an act who are so adept at pulling our heartstrings they would do well to realise it. They are the inverse of so many bands these days who have the confidence but lack the goods to back it up.

The show comes to an end; Youth is tender and jaw-droppingly beautiful. Elena seems genuinely delighted the crowd recognise Smother and she is taken aback when her announcement that Home would be their last song is met with a collective expression of sadness from all present.

The song done, they begin to leave, then realise they haven’t said goodbye and stop to give an awkward little wave. The band look at each other and shuffle off apologetically, having performed a show that couldn’t have shredded our emotions any more comprehensively.

Masterful. A show we would gladly watch over and over again.

We’d pre-order If You Leave on CD and a CD & Vinyl package now if we were you. You can see Jason Williamson‘s wonderful photos from the show at Line Of Best Fit. Follow Daughter at their official site, on Facebook, and on Twitter. They have shows coming up across Europe and North America – we suggest you see one if you can.