Live Review: Half Waif - Sebright Arms, London 24/09/2018


Many people use the excuse of not wanting to go out during the week because it’s a ‘school night’ but with the excuse of Monday night being a stop off in Half Waif’s first ever solo headline tour, there were some exceptions to the rule.

Support came from South London’s Martha Skye Murphy who was lucky enough to work with Nick Cave, on his album, ‘Push the Sky Away’. Murphy’s set featured songs from her debut EP, ‘Heroides’ which is archaic and emotionally driven. There was something about her performance that lends itself to the strange and timeless quality of David Bowie. Songs like ‘I’m Not Looking’ and ‘Soaked’ struggle to be defined, as musically they are a simple composition of layered keyboards and space-age synth, that allow Murphy’s riveting vocals to be showcased. At one point, you have the breathy falsetto that Lana Del Rey is famed for, then in the next moment she surprised you with the crooning blues twang of Elvis Presley. Murphy is a unique talent that, like Nick Cave, takes a certain kind of listener to appreciate, which made her a really interesting support act for Half Waif.

Nandi Rose Plunkett is the voice behind Half Waif. Her stage set up was fairly simple with just a laptop, two keyboards and a sampler board, though the performance was anything but. ‘Silt’ and ‘Lilac House’ develop from stretched out notes on the keyboard and synthetic drums, to a colourful explosion of layered vocals and electronica. There is a heavier element to the body of the live show, that you struggle to pick up when listening to Half Waif’s latest album, Lavender, which is largely based around her late grandmother. You are able to see how much instrumentation goes into each song and how much joy Plunkett gets, from building up the layers, before bouncing around the stage with a huge grin on her face.

When played live, ‘Ocean Scope’ and ‘Torches’ occasionally cross into the territory of deep house, which gives the entire performance a new light. On the opposite side of things, ‘In the Evening’ and ‘Back in Brooklyn’ strip back the performance to a moodier and emotional tone, which showcase the sheer power and versatility of Plunkett’s voice when surrounded by simple keyboard and strings. The annunciation and ability to grow and shrink her voice whilst existential musing in ‘Lavender Burning’ with such ease, makes Half Waif a musical entity which is really worth seeing live if the opportunity ever presents itself.

It is hard to believe that this is Half Waif’s first ever solo headline tour, until she points it out; “I’m very nervous. I love London [as] it feels like another home for me, so this is a very special night […] I must say I was completely terrified to do this. The day I flew to Berlin, two weeks ago, I was sobbing in the kitchen like, ‘I don’t wanna go!’” I think it was safe to say that all who were in the room were glad she made the decision to cross the pond and push herself out of her comfort zone. 

Words by Tyler Damara Kelly