There are certain musical artists in your life who, when you see them perform—especially for the first time—leave you feeling transformed. You’re simply not the mere mortal you were before the show began. Perhaps you thought you knew the artists’ music intimately, fully expecting the live performance to be tantamount to when you first discovered them, which may have been moving but not necessarily transformative. Over the past ten years, what are best described as “religious experiences” have been few and far between. In fact, only two shows immediately come to mind, namely when I saw CocoRosie at the Rialto Theater in Tucson, AZ, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds during their Austin City Limits performance, and, perhaps, as a third, The Dead Weather at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, OR.
Now, there’s a fourth, Daughter at the Cannery Ballroom in Nashville, TN, which I witnessed on Friday, November 11, 2016. What all of these performances have in common was creating an experience that made me feel that I’d entered the realm of myth, in which the music was more than art or entertainment, it was medicine for the soul that I didn’t know I needed until I was awash in its affects. In the case of Daughter, a trio based in London, they’re part of a musical tradition that extends from Dead Can Dance to Portishead to Slowdive and, more recently, The XX. Currently, Daughter is promoting its second album Not to Disappear (2016), which augments an oeuvre that also includes four EPs and several singles.
While many bands rearrange their songs for a live performance—in the case of CocoRosie, for example, the live performances rarely sound anything like the studio versions—Daughter remains mostly faithful to the originals. However, because of the band’s stage presence, its light show, and the exquisite musicianship, what you experience is anything but prerecorded. As a personal aside, I must confess that I enjoy watching how lead singer Elena Tonra moves with a guitar. In a word, she’s sensuous. And her voice is the Center of the Universe, albeit one that’s somehow as shy and intimate and it is compelling and beautiful.
Making their way through more than a dozen songs, largely drawn from the new album, Daughter turned a grungy venue on Nashville’s Cannery Row into a house of worship. As evidence, I want to share one of the three videos I recorded, “To Belong,” which is a song about realizing when a relationship is no longer a relationship but a burden to one another.
Photo and video credit: David Martínez