© Mike Burnell (iso400.com)

Lonelady

The Haunt, Brighton
14 April

These days there’s the general impression that an artist only gets one real chance to make a splash; that first impressions are everything. When Lonelady’s impressive debut album Nerve Up appeared on Warp Records half a decade ago all the right people made all the right noises, yet it failed to have the impact it probably deserved. When the artist behind Lonelady, Julia Ann Campbell, slipped gradually off the radar without a great deal of aplomb, you could have been forgiven for presuming she’d gone for good, consigned to the piles of not quites.

It’s testament to Campbell’s conviction, her talent, and the faith of Warp, that she has now returned, proving that expectations can be resoundingly shattered if you’re in possession of the right tools.

New album Hinterland has landed to a fanfare of critical acclaim, not that Lonelady ever found that in short supply. But it seems this return is also finding a degree of broader appreciation for its melding of soulful 80s pop, post-punk and disco. 

It’s Hinterland that forms the backbone of tonight’s set, and these live representations stay firmly faithful to the recorded versions which emerged late last month. The use of triggered samples and rigorously rehearsed elements result in a heavily controlled performance that rarely wavere from its pre-prescribed path and also shorn of between-song interaction. As video images of Campbell’s hometown seep across the back of the stage, it becomes clear that post-industrial Manchester informs much of Lonelady’s rigid, controlled rhythmic identity. 

The Joy Division-esque intro of Bunkerpop harnesses skipping guitar riffs worked through to their natural ends, while the slippery pop of Groove It Out revels in funk-tinged riffs and elasticated basslines reminiscent of fellow Mancunians A Certain Ratio.

It’s these tight rhythms and intricate riffs which instinctively coax the audience into a mutual, appreciative shuffle of the feet for the duration of this polished and highly focused set. By the time closing song Hinterland arrives, one thing is certain; Lonelady is a rare talent, and one who truly deserved to rise again.