Prioritise Pleasure: Self Esteem brings the house down at her homecoming Yorkshire gig.
It feels like Sheffield has been waiting quite some time for this.
Rotherham-born singer, Rebecca Lucy Taylor (aka Self Esteem) brought a night of honesty and witty lyricism, fully choreographed moves and no less than three outfit changes to the O2 Academy Sheffield on the first of two sold out concerts in the city.
A refreshing reminder that non-conformist ideals don’t need to be shied away from, Taylor has been “asking questions that pop music doesn’t get to”, for quite some time, but witnessing those powerful lyrics live in her home city is something far more than just a pop star in action – it feels like a true community come together for her homecoming.
Opening with Prioritise Pleasure, the crowd roars from the first beat, throwing hands in the air as the Yorkshire singer underlines the importance of self care ‘that’s just for me‘ – a sure setting of the scene.
With the help of with three backing singers, the music effortlessly transcend into F*cking Wizardry, the top streamed track of the month that’s likely popularised for its unapologetic message of self-worth.
The night turns to Moody, a catchy exploration of witty lyricism – opening with “sexting you at the mental health talk seems counterproductive…”, before a quick costume change, from smart suits to deep red one pieces for the whole crew – and the addition of a cowboy hat for Taylor, launching into a non-stop session of tracks from the Mercury Prize nominated album with moody red lighting and a mesmerising dance routine that saw all four singers on stage climb up and down staged steps.
Taking a short pause to sing her dad Happy Birthday, and hello to her old music teacher, it was clear that the singer was truly home.
Little words were spoken throughout the entire set, not even an introduction – but it wasn’t needed. The emotional performances from both the Sheffield singer, blowing kisses to her family in the box to the right of the stage spoke volumes – this gig not only meant a lot to Self Esteem, but Sheffielders too.
It felt as if there was a true community out to show their support- there was no pushing to the front, but rather people asking politely if they’d like a photo taken and respectful – a far cry from the usual flying of pint glasses you’d usually expect from a Thursday night gig.
Adding another outfit change, this time to an all-black two piece, the singer continued with Girl Crush and John Elton before the audience serenaded Self Esteem with a heartfelt performance of The 345, leading into You Forever.
I Do This All The Time ended the first set with a spoken word performance that had the audience truly fixated on the singer before disappearing for the encore.
Returning with I’m Fine, the song highlights a story shared by a woman in her early twenties that fears walking home at night and the words “It sounds so stupid, but me and my friends…if we are approached by a group of men, we will bark like dogs…there is nothing that terrifies a man more than a woman who appears completely deranged” before the four singers, and much of the crowd, began howling and barking to underline the importance of the statement.
Dropping into 2019 hit The Best and finishing with Self Esteem’s own rendition of Shirley Bassey’s This Is My Life – well, what else would it have been?
Having formed half of indie-folk duo Slow Club for the best part of a decade, Rebecca Taylor went solo in 2019, bringing heavy topics of self-sabotage, expectations and relationships (the real version, not the glossy highlights reel most pop stars bring to the stage) to the mainstream with unapologetically bold lyrics and vibrant percussion – filling a long-needed space in the music world, and hasn’t looked back since.
In a recent interview, the lyricist explained: “I just had such a desire to do what I wanted, and ‘Hot Pop Star’ was a digestible, succinct way to describe it”.
“I have been an indie girl since I was about 13; I was exhausted at having to communicate that supposed authenticity. And so the first thing you saw of Self Esteem was me realising that nobody was telling me no anymore.”
“I could make things as fun and as funny and creative as possible. With videos, shows, photoshoots…every time you’ve got an opportunity to do something, why wouldn’t you do the most amazing thing you could cook up?”
Working on her second 2021 album Prioritise Pleasure in the depths of the pandemic, Taylor sat down in her parents’ home in Sheffield to weave a stream of personal experiences together in an uplifting way.
There’s not many artists that can make that feeling of ‘constant square peg, round hole’ and ‘I don’t know sh*t’ come to life – but it’s this talent that has seen thousands of fans come together across the UK and beyond to chant, stomp, tear up and celebrate the differences and insecurities and we all have.
Sheffield is lucky enough to have another night of Self Esteem in her hometown next week.As expected, tickets have sold out for the next Self Esteem concert at the O2 Academy Sheffield, and will also perform in Yorkshire at Asylum Hull University Union, Hull on Sunday 19 March 2023.
Feature Image – The Sheff / Supplied