Haley Bonar | MOTH Club | 28 October 2016
Haley Bonar ends her MOTH Club show with a synth-laden rendition of The Crystals’ ‘Then He Kissed Me’. It’s a bonafide classic, written and produced by Phil Spector at the height of his creative powers. And yet she makes it entirely her own, the 50-year-old song sitting comfortably alongside Bonar’s own brand-new compositions.
That’s all down to her singular voice and the timeless quality of her songwriting, both of which are on full display tonight. Throughout a set that focuses heavily on her latest album, ‘Impossible Dream’, she delivers fresh, vibrant songs that feel retro but not dated, nostalgic but not pastiched.
With lyrics that favour the oblique, a vocal out of a dream, and a hint of haziness to the music, opener ‘Hometown’ sets the scene. Balancing hope with doubt and a hint of regret, it suggests a faded photo of ‘60s California before making way, as on the album, for the defiant ‘Your Mom Is Right’ (“What you lookin’ at?”).
The slow-burning ‘I Can Change’, built around an hypnotic drumbeat, complements Bonar’s resolute vocals with guitar textures and pulsing synths, before ‘Stupid Face’ kicks up the pace and intensity, while providing such poetry as “I miss the heart that does a cannonball/ Into a frosted lake”.
The shimmering ‘Skynz’ is equally poetic (“History is nothing but a memory/ From someone paid to write it”) and freewheeling, paving the way for the gritty ‘No Sensitive Man’ from her previous album. Also representing ‘Last War’ tonight are the likes of the minimalist ‘From A Cage’, which has Bonar swapping guitar for keyboards, swirly ‘Heaven’s Made For Two’, and the effortlessly buoyant – and rapturously received – ‘Kill The Fun’.
But the loudest cheers are reserved for ‘Impossible Dream’ breakout ‘Kismet Kill’, closing out the main set on a high of fuzzy guitars, woozy vocals, and classic pop melodies. “Don’t I remind you of somebody somewhere subtle?” she sings. Perhaps, but there’s nobody else right now who sounds like Haley Bonar.