Holly Humberstone’s Heavenly Homecoming Show at Rock City, Nottingham

My sister recommended I listen to Holly Humberstone a few years ago, and as my spotify coined it, it was ‘love at first listen’. So much so, that her smash hit ‘Scarlett’ inevitably became my most listened to song of 2022 and the soundtrack to my year. This meant that seeing her play at my closest music venue was a no brainer for me, in fact, it was essential.

The dingy room in which I have danced, cried and fallen over far too many times, began to fill with what I think is fair to say, a largely young, female audience. At last, my people! After a year full of festivals and gigs across Europe and the UK, going to Rock City finally felt like coming home. And it seems I wasn’t alone in this feeling, as Holly announced, this was the last date of her tour, in the city that she ‘grew up just down the road’ from, making it her homecoming gig also. Not to mention, being able to play in what she announced as her ‘favourite venue in the whole world’, it felt as though we were both experiencing this full circle moment. 

This was declared shortly after she appeared on stage in an incandescent glow with her recognisable long crimped hair and boisterous black boots, kicking off the night with her 2021 single ‘The Walls Are Way Too Thin’. However, Holly wasn’t solo on stage, her band were there to share the moment and did so by complimenting her peaceful performance and helping to amplify her usual softer sound, creating more drama.

In a collaborative effort, they seemed to create this huge crescendo of music, for it to all come crashing back down again for the bridge, as Holly’s songs often do. She projected her fragile vocals in those quiet moments as the room fell still, just for the song to take you back off again, into the heavens where her voice belongs. This happened continuously in the set with songs like ‘Vanilla’ and ‘Friendly Fire’, making it feel like her signature songwriting tool.

In these emotional bridges, the band’s sound collapsed around her and all that was left was her isolated vocals that cut right through the room, like some kind of superpower. Other times, when she took to her keyboard, it felt as though she was calling out to us to say ‘join me’ and we did, in what became a choir of soft voices singing her most tragic lines back to her, like some sort of seance. 

The difference, I noticed, between Holly Humberstone and a lot of other live performers is, that it didn’t feel as though she was floating on a cloud above us, she wasn’t an all-singing, all-dancing pop star with the confetti and the time spent doing Mexican waves with the audience, it felt like she was down there with us, on the ground. It was simple and beautiful.

With her powerful high pitched voice comes a shy and awkward demeanour, when the music comes to an end and she has to talk again, all the confidence and coherent  thoughts evaporate as she becomes the small town girl from a village near Grantham again. It made her powerful performance all the more endearing when you knew just how timid this girl was, standing behind her trusty guitar, Benedict.

Before the stripped back song ‘Haunted House’ Holly told the crowd in a vulnerable moment about her family home that inspired the song and how it’s now sadly falling to pieces. This sentimental building now crumbling seemed to act as a metaphor for her having to let go of her girlhood and younger years, making the performance all the more emotional. 

Illuminated by the blue strobe lights, with the attention of a sea of swaying girls, she began to sing with the most haunting yet heavenly voice for a shortened version of the song. This was the point in the night that really demonstrated Holly’s vocal abilities but in her own sheepish way, she still apologised, after hitting every note, about her scratchy voice from all the touring. If only we all sounded like that when we were sick…

The night drew to a close, but certainly on a high, with the upbeat fan favourites ‘Falling Asleep At The Wheel’ and then closing with the encore ‘Scarlett’, making the crowd grow louder and louder as they screamed the line ‘Scarlett, I don’t need to be responsible for everything you’re feeling.’ 

It was a wholesome night of shared emotions and a sense of pride in the air. Pride to see an East Midlands girl, just like us, who can’t string a sentence together without saying ‘like’ and gets excited about taking other people’s ‘BeReal’s’ (which she did, twice on the night!), living out her dreams.