“What’s the Salford version of the Yorkshire chant?” grins Jen Cloher to the sold-out Eagle Inn crowd, after kicking off with In Blood Memory’s catalystic ‘Hold My Hand’. “We played Leeds last night and thought they were chanting ‘you’re shit!'”.
A designated connoisseur of the Aussie music scene with four albums under her belt, Cloher is no stranger to success – but tonight’s her first time in Manchester, a UK tour that’s seen her introduce herself to many cities. Her latest self-titled album has been the one to bring her here – a stunning, grunge-tinted release that’s established her international presence.
It’s no surprise that tonight, similar to Cloher’s most recent album, bares all. She sings frankly about her personal struggles, taking us through some of the recent challenges she’s faced in a husky tone. ‘Analysis Paralysis’ challenges Australia’s equal marriage vote; ‘Great Australian Bite’ paints her struggles of being a DIY Aussie artist. Her brutal honesty is an endearing quality – and one of Cloher’s many positives. Her band are tight; Cloher’s vocals are even tighter. It’s a performance bursting with the talent that can only be achieved after being in the industry for so long.
As lead single and standout track of the night ‘Forgot Myself’ sees Cloher wittily discuss the pros and cons of her and wife Courtney Barnett’s relationship, the pair can’t help but exchange frequent glances and smiles. It’s heartwarming to see Barnett not steal the spotlight, choosing instead to keep back in the shadows with her guitar and let Cloher do her thing. Barnett may be at times be the focus of Cloher’s songwriting – but there’s no doubting that tonight is Jen’s show .
There’s hints of Pavement, smidgens of The War on Drugs and a storming Go-Betweens cover – and it’s all pretty evident that Cloher is a genre-defying songwriting master. ‘Shoegazers’ is particularly 90’s, her band sounding huge in such a tiny venue’ ‘Kinda Biblical’ is the darkest of all, its twisted guitars and deadpan vocals earning a mass head-bob from everyone present.“I used to drink, but drinking it just made me cheap; and all that other shit just made me grind my teeth” sings an upbeat Cloher in ‘Stone Age Brain’, as blunt and brilliant as ever as bass riffs and raucous drums rage on.
It’s an honour to see punk Cloher perform in such an intimate venue – something that, when you take into consideration her success this year, is unlikely to happen again. Keep your fingers crossed that she comes back to Manchester soon – because everybody will be waiting, that’s for sure.