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LIVE: Holly Humberstone – Bristol Beacon, Bristol, 15/03/2024

Pop music is in an interesting place in the 20s, very different to its place in the 10s or the dredge served up in the 00s. You have bands like The Lottery Winners making entire albums about mental health and anxiety, alongside superstars such as Beyoncé making their magnum opus in three acts, crossing boundaries and blurring genres. It all feels more serious in ambition and sentiment than pop of the past, maybe influenced by the revival of some 80s tropes over the last few years.

On a Friday night in Bristol, one of the UK’s most interesting new pop stars is playing to a sold-out crowd, and Holly Humberstone falls more into the serious sentiment category with her early releases, including debut album Painting My Bedroom Black. With her giant cobweb background and her name in huge Addams Family echoing font, she sings of loneliness, heartache, and love. The audience is a real mix, at first glance it seems like the teenagers are out in force along with their parents but close up Humberstone’s audience is a real generation spanning marvel. And the crowd reacted well to the likes of ‘Cocoon’, riotously delivered as a duet with Medium Build’s Nick Carpenter, title track and set opener ‘Painting My Bedroom Black’, and the low-key catchiness of ‘Elvis Impersonators’.

It’s a minimal show in all ways, from the simple (but effective) set decoration to filling some of the silence between tracks with stories of her family and talking about the genesis of songs (‘Loneliness in London’ is exactly about that), Humberstone is a relatively light touch performer who lets her songs and words do the talking. An excellent guitar slinger, and with a crack band behind her, you can see that the Lincolnshire singer has all the qualities for genuine success. A strong catalogue of songs from her early EPs and debut LP have given her setlist a level of quality that’s quite rare, and supports the size of venue that is now being played. Considering the sparse set times of some legacy superstars with decades of material, Humberstone’s near 90 minute set was some feat and even more impressively doesn’t feel at all saggy. With festival dates lined up throughout the summer, expect this pop singer-songwriter to be someone you hear a lot more from.

Before finishing, a small word also for supporting band Medium Build, who show how a crowd can be won over by sheer force of personality, along with some wickedly observed songs.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.