A Review of Daughter at Somerville Theatre

Elena Tonra had an unassuming stage presence. The Daughter lead singer wore a black turtleneck, grey slacks, and Doc Marten loafers. Her dark brown hair was pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck. With her, you don’t get a flashy performance. But Daughter doesn’t need any smoke and mirrors to captivate the audience. As soon as guitarist Igor Haefeli strummed his first chords, and as soon as Tonra opened her mouth, the audience hung on every note, every word.  Daughter played a sold-out show at Somerville Theatre in Davis Square on March 4th, almost two months after releasing their second LP Not to Disappear. The English trio consisting of Tonra, Haefeli, and drummer Remi Aguilella, crafted a follow-up that is a slight departure from the ethereal subtleness of their debut If You Leave. The music of Not to Disappear is more aggressive, the lyrics more blunt. However, that is not to say they’ve lost their fragility that has resonated with audiences since the release of 2011’s EP His Young Heart. Rather Tonra is even more vulnerable in this record due to her pointed, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. In “No Care,” she sings, “Oh, there has only been one time where we fucked / And I felt like a bad memory… / How I wanted you to promise we'd only make love.” By seeing Daughter live, you see Tonra exposing the deepest, darkest parts of herself. Which along with her natural shyness, may explain her nervous energy on stage.

Daughter’s set started with their new single “How,” a song about getting over a significant other (“Moving on / Is moving in slow motion / To keep the pain to a minimal”). The rest of the set was a mix of new and old, including recent singles like “Doing the Right Thing” and “Numbers,” mixed in with crowd-favorites like “Home,” “Smother,” and everyone’s favorite (or at least my favorite) song to bawl to, “Youth.”   

I saw Daughter last when they played Boston Calling in September. Although I enjoyed their set, the large festival setting at Government Center didn’t mesh well with the hushed, melancholic nature of Daughter’s music. Plus, they were one of the earlier acts, so it seemed as though the majority of the audience was just waiting for bigger acts like Hozier and Alabama Shakes. They sounded good, but the band appeared out of their element on a larger stage.

Daughter seemed more at home at the smaller, old fashioned Somerville Theatre. They perform better in an intimate venue that just wasn’t there during Boston Calling. My only complaint about Somerville Theatre is that it is seating only. Eventually some of the audience stood up and gathered around the stage, after getting permission from Haefeli. Granted, Daughter isn’t a band that one dances and thrashes around to, but it was weird being confined to seat, especially considering all tickets were general admission.  

Unlike Boston Calling, Daughter was headlining, the audience was there specifically to see them. At one point an audience member shouted at the band, “I can’t wait to get sad!” to which both the band and audience chuckled. Although the band members didn’t speak much during the set, you could feel a strong connection between the band and audience. Unlike many other shows, it seemed as though people didn’t have their phones out their entire time. The audience was present, and more concerned with singing along with Tonra than capturing every moment for Snapchat.  

Daughter played “Made of Stone,” Not to Disappear’s final track, for their encore. With lyrics like, “Love / It's just easing the waiting / Before dying without company,” the set didn’t exactly end of a positive note, but fans of Daughter wouldn’t expect that. But if they went to Daughter expecting catharsis of their own sadness, loneliness, and gloom, then they probably left the venue feeling validated and content.

Photo by Sonny Malhotra

A&EMegan Cathey