LIVE REVIEW: Self Esteem @ Wylam Brewery, Newcastle (27.02.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Victoria Wai

Arguably the album of 2021, it’s difficult to recall a record in recent times that’s inspired such love and devotion as Self Esteem’s Prioritise Pleasure. Candid, unabashed and determinedly, resplendently self-indulgent, it’s clear why Rebecca Lucy Taylor’s second solo album has struck so potent a chord; its songs reflecting the trials and intimacies of a predominantly female audience, empowering listeners in an age permeated by the lingering plagues of misogyny and systemic injustice.

As your archetypal male reviewer, this connection is easy to ‘get’ yet (owing to privilege and little-to-no experiential overlap) impossible to truly share. Ultimately, though, when confronted with a show as cathartic, exuberant and wildly entertaining as this, the urge to join the outpouring becomes irresistible. If the album was a masterclass in maximalist, straight-talking bangers, the Prioritise Pleasure tour is nothing short of a celebratory tour de force from pop’s newest icon.

Flanked by keyboard/bass player Sophie Galpin, drummer Mike Park and an all-singing, all-dancing trio of Marged Sion, Levi Heaton and Seraphina D’Arby, Taylor’s live extravaganza bolsters indelible hooks with polished performance art, with each new song spawning its own individually tailored set of moves. It’s all carefully choreographed, but the wide, goofy smile lighting up Taylor’s face feels wholly spontaneous. Far from being on autopilot, she seems intent on sucking everything in; from the acclaim of her audience to the chemistry and obvious camaraderie shared with her backing gang.

Even as a relative outsider, the adulation is extraordinary to witness. It’s there in the gleeful wolf cries which see out I’m Fine (“there’s nothing that terrifies a man more than a woman that appears completely deranged”); in the virtual silence during an a capella Still Reigning; in the joyful reverence which greets impeccable stunners such as Moody, You Forever and The Best. Inevitably, though, its zenith comes during I Do This All The Time, an instant classic whose remarkable spoken lyric and rousing communal chorus are saluted and recited word-for-word by virtually the entire hall. More akin to a spiritual experience than a crossover pop hit, it’s the crowning moment of an outstanding evening – a potential ‘I was there’ event to be cited in years to come, and at the very least a bona fide Gig of the Year contender.

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