New Zealand songwriter Aldous Harding is currently on a tour across North America to promote her beautiful new record, Party. The title is a slight misnomer, though, and I knew better than to expect a raucous affair at her LA stop at the Echo last Thursday night. Instead, audiences were entranced by her simplicity.
Midnight Sister opened for Harding that night; their lead singer floated around the stage in a short, shimmering kimono with her face splashed in makeup that made her into a porcelain doll. There is a great deal of potential in Midnight Sister’s combination of dreamy lyricism and jaunty keys, given that they still have the skeleton of a moving rock band. They are a new to the local scene, with very few studio recordings circulating around the internet, but their live show was captivating enough to warrant seconds. Unfortunately, we only got to spend little over half an hour with them before they departed.
Next, in her signature all-white performance outfit, Aldous Harding took the stage. Harding describes herself as intense, but she has a palpable humanity to her as well, which she only let us see between songs. From what one can glean from past interviews, she doesn’t set out to be off-putting, she simply understands the forces of her own music, and she channels it into a confident energy which in turn is shared with us. After all, the song she calls her favorite is “Living the Classics,” which examines the longevity of contemporary music, with a veiled hope that Party, specifically, will become a record that future generations want to revisit.
Harding played from a wooden stool for most of the night, swiveling her head around the mic as she made eye contact with as many fans as she could. The faces she made in her music videos (see: “Horizon” or “Blend”) are the very same that she projects when performing; coupled with her lyrical intrigue and sparse compositions, she left members of the crowd agape. Some new songs were showcased throughout the night, but the moment that made us all laugh came when Harding introduced a track as “the greatest song ever written.” It seemed like a tongue-in-cheek comment about her own music, until she launched into “Single Pigeon,” a delightful tune from Paul McCartney’s 1973 record, Red Rose Speedway. It is exactly this cheerful gloom that could aptly describe Harding’s discography, and easily something all generations can appreciate. Perhaps another passionate songwriter will be performing “What If Birds Aren’t Singing They’re Screaming” forty-four years from now. Only time will tell.
Words by Zoë Elaine