Holly Humberstone has enjoyed a rapid rise over the last couple of years, and rightly so, producing tracks which are equally emotional, entrancing and exciting. In the midst of her headline Sleep Tight tour, we headed down to Manchester Academy to catch her live.
There’s something always quite satisfying about seeing somebody you’ve rated since the outset reaching bigger and bigger venues. In Holly Humberstone’s case, we first saw her playing to around 25 people in a pub/gig venue around 4 years ago. Now she’s sold out the 2,000+ capacity Manchester Academy.
Just before she comes on stage, her arrival is signalled by an array of flickering lights. It brings huge cheers, which grow as she bounds enthusiastically from the back. She grins from ear to ear, clearly delighted to be on stage at the sold out venue, before opening with The Walls Are Way Too Thin, the track which no doubt won her a fair few of the fans in attendance tonight, and moving swiftly in to Vanilla. She strums at her guitar, singing away and taking the crowd with her, before the third track Please Don’t Leave Just Yet signals a change as she moves to the keys, rotating between two set-ups.
Keyboards feature prominently through the rest of the 14-track set, as she seeks to change up the tempo and feel of the evening. But throughout, it’s brimming with emotion and feelings. London Is Lonely pulls the tempo back beautifully and she has the crowd singing back every word through the moody and dramatic Drop Dead. Friendly Fire, which has Holly Humberstone back on the guitar, has a beautifully sparse feel, projecting the emotion onto the audience who are hooked.
As she moves through the set her vocals are spot on, layered on top of a backing band comprising of guitars, drums and bass.
She takes the time to stop regularly and interact with her fans, tells of the stories and emotions behind the tracks, and even receive bunches of flowers which some of the crowd have brought with them – she looks genuinely surprised and delighted. She talks of her special affection for Manchester, speaks of her sadness of leaving her childhood home, addresses opening up in relationships, laughs about being awkward, and admits to feeling huge nerves ahead of the Manchester gig.
Perhaps the most stunning section of the night comes as she performs a string of tracks without her backing band, rotating between keys and guitar. The segment includes the excellent Haunted House before she picks up the guitar again to perform her debut release Deep End to massive cheers.
In a stirring build towards the end of the set she ups the tempo again with Overkill before rounding out with Thursday, Falling Asleep At The Wheel and Sleep Tight before a fitting upbeat encore in Scarlett which has the fans cheering and singing along whilst she swaps between keys and guitar.
The evening showcases Holly Humberstone’s talent for skilfully crafting emotionally charged and powerful songs. It’s a sweeping journey of upbeat, pulled back, contemplative and optimistic tracks which leaves the fans on a high.