Credit Hannah Stewart

Review: Holly Humberstone @ SWG3

By Hannah Stewart

Holly Humberstone plays Glasgow’s SWG3 as part of her biggest UK tour to date.

Walking into the Galvanisers at SWG3, I was greeted by the sounds of the early noughties playing out over the speakers. I’d missed the support act by a few minutes, but was more than happy to listen to the songs of my childhood as I waited for Holly Humberstone to take the stage. The fog machine was working overtime, ensuring the sunset hue covering the stage masked the last-minute tech checks. Suddenly the playlist was cut, the lights turned off, and a wave of phones rose to capture the start of the show.

Red lights flicker on and off as Holly Humberstone enters and kicks off the concert with The Walls Are Way Too Thin. By the time she gets to the second chorus you can hear Glaswegian accents singing along, lamenting about being “bored, ignored, and out of our minds”. The more upbeat tempo of Vanilla – a track detailing an up-and-down relationship – encourages dancing, and demonstrates her ability to combine fun pop beats with pensive lyrics. Introspective melodies dominate her music, so it is not surprising that as the hour-and-ten-minute set goes on, Holly spends more time talking about the inspirations behind the lyrics.

The setlist was designed well, with the concert flowing cohesively as her music goes from upbeat to synth-pop and then to – as she calls them – her “very depressing” songs. Holly takes the time to explain some of these slower, more stripped back songs, most of which are performed without her energetic band. Haunted House, written about her family moving out of her childhood home and the uneasy feeling of leaving youth behind, stills the audience, who up until then had been moving along to every beat. Even more poignant is Deep End, written for her sister when she was struggling with her mental health. A group of fans near the front hold up signs echoing back the lyrics and sentiment, stating “you’re our medicine”. As the song ends, she thanks them and asks if she can keep one, telling them that her heart is “pretty full”. 

The interlude of just Holly, her guitar and the piano ends and the band is back on to help finish the set with some of her more popular, upbeat songs. Both Falling Asleep at The Wheel and Scarlett get a slight remix, the amped-up versions resulting in cheers, a smattering of hands in the air, and some enthusiastic singing.

Despite the crystal-clear quality of her voice, her endearing nature, and the spirited performance by the band, the crowd was slightly lacklustre at times. Their claps at the end of a song were louder than a call-and-response section during it, and there was an extremely poor attempt at a ‘one more tune’ chant whilst waiting for the encore. The intimate and evocative nature of her music may not create the same buzz as other concerts, but the atmosphere was not at the level you would expect from a sold-out Galvanisers. Perhaps looming deadlines and exams were weighing too heavy on the minds of the youthful crowd, but Holly Humberstone did her best to create a great evening. Her undeniable talent was on display for all to see, and with more experience she will become an even greater performer, especially as she’s already realised that any mention of “Glasgow”  is enough to revitalise a dimming audience.


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