Live Review: Daughter – Enmore Theatre, Sydney (09.04.16)

It’s of little debate that indie-folk dreamers Daughter are one talented band. Countless times I have found myself curled up in the foetal position on my bed, their haunting melodies floating through my bedroom. Even when I’m not doing that, that’s the imagery that comes from their delicate music – the crumbling of the self. The woman behind the bands success, Elena Tonra, has carefully cultivated sadness into a universal selling point – and we’re buying it.

It’s a tricky thing when a band so delicate meets a huge stage, enormous acoustics and an overtly rowdy crowd but with a bit of malleability, typically fragile artists can soar in the live arena. I’ve seen it with Sufjan Stevens, who opted who heavy electronica and bass in order to demand the crowd’s attention. But I saw nothing like this on Sunday.

Photo: Gwendolyn Lee.
Photo: Gwendolyn Lee.

The strict adherence to the aesthetics of their songs meant that Daughter certainly made an impact; as the first words from “Alone/With You” escaped Tonra’s lips – “I hate sleeping alone” – my sister could only muster one word – “Wow”. Though it’s not the most eloquent of summaries, it certainly is apt when it comes to Daughter’s live performance and the despondent lyricism that accompanies it. To expect something other than that would be deluded; Daughter have never brought a smile to anyone’s face, their show tonight reaffirming such a notion as I struggled to avoid crying in public. It was exactly what was expected.

Meeting expectations isn’t always a pleasant thing. In the same way that they managed to move some fans to tears, Daughter also struggled to hold the attention of the rowdier crowd that is often found in all-ages gigs. At points, it genuinely sounded like a blanket had been thrown over all amplifiers in The Enmore, the acoustics sounding muffled, dry, and cloudy. I’m unsure as to whether this was a performance issue or a technical one, but it certainly affected the involvement of the crowd, who – rather than listen to the melodies quietly and patiently – opted to yell obscenities in any given break (hint: there was a lot).

Photo: Gwendolyn Lee.
Photo: Gwendolyn Lee.

It was only when the familiar sounds of “Smother” filled the room that the aura began to change. A touch more bass and a wee bit more experimentation equated to a distinctive change in vibes – a change that this writer certainly welcomed. It was as if Daughter had finally woken up and given a live show to remember, instead of one that simply met our expectations.

It is of little contention that this is an incredibly talented band, especially given their power to make their listeners emote so strongly. But the live show is a completely different arena and requires strengths that may not be in the physical album. This is where experimentation is pivotal, but where Daughter suffered. In their strict adherence, we were given a re-enactment of their wonderful catalogue, but were devoid of those exceptional moments that you are gifted with at some live shows.