The Humble Youth

The debut album of UK indie band Daughter may have only seen its North American release a few weeks ago, but the achingly beautiful If You Leave has already managed to create quite a stir here in Vancouver. The talented group, fronted by endearing singer-songwriter Elena Tonra, were originally booked to play at Venue before unexpectedly high ticket demands transferred them to the more spacious Commodore Ballroom.

You’d imagine that news such as this would provide a pretty good indication as to what to expect from their fans last Friday night, but Tonra and her band seemed completely overwhelmed and humbled by their sold-out venue of screaming devotees.

The night was kicked off by Minnesota’s Jeremy Messersmith, going it solo with his reverb mic and electric/acoustic guitar hooked up to a loop pedal. His short set featured a commendable cover of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” and some great crowd interaction in which he taught sections of the audience anthem-like harmonies to accompany one of his songs. Disappointingly though, his self-described ‘Wuss Rock’ and string of monotonous slow numbers made his set tediously one-dimensional and I only wish he’ll think on experimenting outside of his comfort zone for future concerts.

After a quick turnaround, Daughter’s Tonra crept onto the dimly lit stage to a wild reception. She was joined as always by her boyfriend, Igor Haefeli on guitar, with whom she shared the limelight, taking it in turns to introduce the numbers and murmur words of gratitude and awe. The pair, along with drummer Remi Aguilella, was also joined by a guest band member on keyboard and guitar.

As the delicate and spacious ‘Shallows’ commenced, its heartbeat baseline cast an intense lull over the restless room and from the dimly lit stage Elena Tonra’s voice burst with an honesty and warm resonance akin to that of The XX’s Romy Madley Croft. To the crowd’s delight, a great mix of material from the band’s new album as well as their previous two EPs was played throughout the night, with His Young Heart’s “Candles” picking up the pace as next on the agenda. The Wild Youth’s “Love” followed, in which Haefeli eccentrically grazed a violin bow against his guitar strings in order to create the song’s ominous, brooding soundscape that encompasses a similar style to that of fellow Brit Ben Howard’s latest Burgh Island EP.

It was also great to see new songs such as “Run” and the skilfully building “Amsterdam” received with the same enthusiasm as the likes of “Landfill”, a previous iTunes Spotlight feature to which a ringing chorus of “I want you so much, but I hate your guts” was sung back to the overwhelmed band.

After playing a truly astounding set-list including the hauntingly slow-burning “Smother” and guitar shredding “Tomorrow”, “Youth” and “Home” topped off the night with a level of screaming and floor stomping that I didn’t think could get any louder, causing Haefeli and Aguilella to thrash about wildly on stage as Tonra coyly giggled into her hands in amazement. The level of passion put into the demand for an encore from the crowd was undeniably deserving of something special. Boy, did we get it in the form of Daughter’s UK Radio 1 Live Lounge cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, making its live debut here in Vancouver and a perfect high on which to end the night.

Although I have already made several comparisons as to the style that Daughter projects, and could make many more (4AD labelmates Bon Iver for instance) the truth remains that they are a distinctively individual group that blends raw, relatable emotion with enjoyable music so seamlessly, that it seems appropriate listening for any mood or occasion. The fact that their ambient compositions could produce such a wild reaction at the Commodore on Friday is testimony to that, and not a statement you could attribute to many, especially a band that’s been together for less than three years.