Nilüfer Yanya – Hare and Hounds, Birmingham
Only one thing, a very important person, is missing from Nilüfer Yanya’s show. Her mom. The Londoner, bright white guitar in relief against her dark pink sweater, regrets: “We played this track in London on Tuesday. It’s my mum's favourite song and she was rocking out like, right there. I forgot to say it was for her though.”
Relaxed pub venue Hare and Hounds' long rectangular main room always sounds great (“We played last time at, ummm, Sunflower? This one’s nicer... [jokingly thinking on her feet] ...but only ‘cause you’re here!”). Jazzi Bobbi's clean sax is so good on the sprayed-on 'Thanks 4 Nothing'. And how the title act's clean-hearted, not-quite-retro staccato soul voice (“Sade at the indie disco” is reductive!) and personable guitar are percussively used in series like commas, and full stops. And – sometimes shouty dashes – to punch out her messages on 'Baby Luv' is so smart.
Current album Miss Universe's interstitial descriptions are missing live, losing bits of its plot but emboldening its more important story, told with a more poppy, counterintuitively darker, voice. Perhaps its melody's our life’s expected route, and its lyrics the exciting detours that slow us down but we need to keep going. The unease of feeling like we shouldn’t have too much fun at the time of our lives, knowing we can never have so much fun again.
Younger Nilüfer loved Joan Armatrading, one of this city’s proper heroes as the country's first female singer-songwriter widely-respected abroad, and hearing their shared power in 'In Your Head' lifts those hearts that know. Oh and they both write really catchy songs (a woman was still singing this song later at the bus stop) with a raw passion for words, healingly instructing we don't need a romantic relationship to live a fulfilling life. Birmingham crowds can be endearingly fusty. A man nearby clearly uncomfortably holds his cough until the end, and a woman shouting “You’re amazing!” way over the loud applause excitingly feels a little bit naughty. Nilüfer mom’s favourite from the other day was ‘Angels’ but she must have loved this too.
Yanya’s described pushing herself to get on stage but once there doesn’t want to get off, and no-one's too sure there's going to be an encore. (There's not!) She’s also described being the final year to benefit from her state school’s exceptionally good music programme, an increasingly common closure in-line with middle-class musicians’ increasing privilege, which necessarily comes at the expense of those who are, at very worst, just as talented. Let’s hope even younger musicians are allowed to continue sharing their lives with fans of a shared lived experience – a precious two-way honour that just can’t be taught – on their own special nights like this.
Go check out Miss Universe and buy it.