25 May | The Louisiana
Photo: Brandon Long
Making her Bristol debut, Hazel English brought her gauzy fraught-pop to The Louisiana on Thursday night. Coming to the end of her second European tour, and off the back of playing both The Great Escape Festival and her biggest show, at the Lexington in London, the set was polished, deft and refreshing, English leading her spritely three-piece backing band through twelve shimmering songs.
Having earlier basked in the early-evening May sunshine down by the Harbourside, her inherently sun-soaked Australia-meets-California-ness led her to enquire whether it was always this beautiful and warm in Bristol. Beautiful – yes; sweltering – definitely not, we replied.
Her current double EP, Just Give In/Never Going Home provided the content for the set, proving what a substantial piece of work it is. The songs encapsulate the paradoxical nature of human nature, where we can seem externally sunny (the tunes) and yet our hidden thoughts (the lyrics) can prey on our minds, undermining any sense of stability. This was perhaps most evident on the night in “Love is Dead,” heavy lightness giving it as much purr as it had tremor.
In concert, we seize more quickly and easily upon her tunes, caught up in the momentum of the brisk cadence, propelled by busy bass and drums, with synths, vocals and hazy guitars draped texturally over the top. Her songs seek to make sense of all things transient – youth, love, the passage of time. Change seems to have suited her well, though, her move to the US from Australia having supercharged her creativity and distinctly accelerated her career.
This indie introvert has always been candid in interviews about self-criticism and anxieties and how she deals with those invasive thoughts, as epitomised by ‘Make It Better,’ with the line “I want to be seen/ Yet I want to be invisible“. She seemed happiest when fully immersed in a song: seen, but predominantly heard. The more each song progressed and developed, and the more the crowd responded, the more blissful she looked. ‘Control’ addressed how we can all build our own mind-made ‘prison’ if we’re not careful; by the time she sang “You’ve got me now” on ‘Birthday,’ that was how the crowd felt too. ‘I’m Fine’ and ‘Never Going Home’ were considerately saved up to close the set with two stand-out tunes. English’s love of Tears for Fears was evident in ‘I’m Fine’, with some additional OMD keyboard action – the one time when melancholia actually invaded the tune itself.
That ‘Never Going Home’ immediately preceded home time gives a sense of the reserved, subtle humour of Hazel English. She doesn’t really do between-songs banter. She’s happiest letting the songs speak for her, because they do it clearly, sincerely and infectiously. She did respond to the predictable shouts for an encore with a cheeky, “Just this one time, for you guys”, giving us ‘That Thing’ to finish. Her ‘thing’ is proof that understated and modest can be as pleasing as brash and flamboyant. Next time she’s in town, get along and join the quiet revolution.
Check out ‘That Thing’ below.