I first caught Aldous Harding when she played Power Lunches in 2015. She had an amazing power to hold the room with the force of her presence along with some beautiful songs. With the release of her second album, Party. The amazing songs on that album took her performances to another level and I did my best not to miss any of her performances.
After the release of her third album, she gained a band and although I wasn’t convinced by this new lineup. I bought tickets to both nights of her performing at the Barbican. That was in 2019. One pandemic and a fourth album later. I finally caught up with her again.
Sometimes I hate nights like these. Watching two evenings of clearly good performances, I left both nights bitterly disappointed. The change in dynamic seems to mean songs from Party have been relegated to encores. Her ‘intense but slightly awkward’ folk persona has been replaced by a new lead singer persona. With it comes a different charm. But the intensity is lost and awkwardness slightly overplayed. With her dragging chairs across the stage making scraping noises and a running gag of a stage hand very precisely plugging her guitar in. The ‘persona’ is too much of a persona for me. She doesn’t need to do any of this. She has some fantastic songs that stand on their own.
Sadly the band dynamic seems to drive the song choices. With songs from the last two albums dominating the set list and I’m not a fan of these albums. When she has such an amazing presence, I want less band and more Aldous.
However, I am not going to decry her this success. I have seen her work so hard to get here. It is her choice as to where she takes her career and clearly many, many people are enjoying her more expansive sound. Sadly, for me. It is time to move on. These band performances just don’t have the charm of her earlier work.