Findlay live at Spanky Van Dykes – 04/12/2013

Only 24 hours before her performance at Nottingham’s Spanky Van Dykes, Findlay had sold out the legendary London venue the 100 Club. Three days later she would end her tour with a homecoming show at Manchester’s Sound Control. You might have forgiven a hungover Natalie Findlay, then, for not pulling out every stop for the benefit of a few dozen fans in this modestly sized venue. There was, however, no need to, as the band produced the kind of electric and captivating set that makes intimate gigs so special.

A 6-date UK tour rounded off a busy year for Stockport raised Natalie Findlay. European tours, festival rounds and high-profile support slots have got a lot of people listening, and with an as yet untitled new EP on the horizon and a debut record slated for summer 2014, this trend looks set to continue. Having interviewed Natalie a couple of hours before the show (read the interview here) I couldn’t wait to see her in her element.

Soulful acapella number ‘Sweetheart’ acts as a low-key prelude to the set. It’s a daring move that could, in less skilled hands, go so wrong, but goes so very right, the Manc frontwoman somehow exuding an unassuming yet absolute self-confidence. Seconds after its conclusion, and after the crowd is beckoned closer, the full band kicks into the unashamedly rock ‘n’ roll riff of single ‘Your Sister’. It is almost possible to see the effects of a heavy night’s drinking wear off over the course of the song.

As crowd and band begin to warm up, Findlay introduces ‘a song about drinking gin and faking orgasms’: ‘Gin On The Dukebox’. A succession of equally upbeat rock tunes follows, including as-yet unrecorded ‘I Had To Try It Once’ and raucous live favourite ‘Fever’. To anyone in the crowd new to her music it would quickly have become clear that Findlay is no one trick pony. She effortlessly switches between sultry and snarling vocal styles; her songs combine garage guitar riffs, tempo changes and infectious choruses.

Nowhere is this diversity more noticeable than on ‘Black Cloud Silver Lining’. Originally recorded with Bill Ryder-Jones, the song provides a set highlight, Natalie delivering an isolated and melancholic vocal over tremolo keyboards. The crowd is also treated to dance-y new track ‘Wolf Back’ as well as ‘Your Sister’ b-side and Florence-esque ‘You Gave Me Grave’.

It is newly released ‘Greasy Love’, though, that gets the best reception. The psychedelic strobing light show that has continued throughout the set compliments the song’s erratic feel, especially during its addictively sleazy dubstep-y breakdown. Findlay alternates between microphones, one adding to her voice what she would call ‘fucked up distortion’, as she raps through the verses and howls the choruses.

The dark build up of penultimate song ‘Fake Black Heart’ sets the stage perfectly for set closer and fan favourite ‘Off and On’. Findlay teasingly plays with the tempo during the song’s slow intro before the band launches full pelt into the best rock ‘n’ roll riff of the night. Natalie fiercely shouts out the last of the song’s lyrics before saying a quick goodbye and leaving the stage. If this was Findlay warming up for a homecoming show, I can’t imagine what she is like performing on the top of her game.

Alex Orosa