Delf Delves into the Wilderness

Last year, Eliza Delf gave what was only her second live performance at the Corn Hall, supporting Roddy Woomble of Idlewise. Eight months later, she has returned, accompanied by her Wilderness Collective, as headliner. Before she took to the stage, however, we got to hear from her support act, The Trips, who brought folk tinged Americana to the Corn Hall. Accompanied by cajon and acoustic guitar, Jenny and Emma lent their harmonies to stripped back covers by artists as diverse as Whitney Houston and Bruce Springsteen, while their own compositions dripped with wistful melancholy.

After the interval, the five-piece Wilderness Collective appeared, after which Eliza Delf made her grand entrance, resplendent in a shimmering gold evening dress, as if Miss Haversham had taken to the stage. Vocally, Delf has been compared to Kate Bush – given her distinctive vocal range it’s easy to understand why –  but my ears were reminded of Regina Spektor , or even Irwin Sparkes of The Hoosiers. The evening’s set was largely taken from her album, Into the Wilderness, albeit on shuffle – a collection of songs filled with an ominous darkness, their precise meaning just beyond reach. Inevitably, the orchestral texture of the album was largely absent, despite Eve Wright’s mournful cello and the intricacy of Ross Stewart’s guitar playing.  Instead, the emphatic beat of Tim Skinner’s percussion became the pulse that punctuated Delf’s singular vocals.

Howl, Wavelength, Penance and the mesmeric Court Of The Queen of Strangeness proved to be highlights from the album, while the more recent Uncanny demonstrated there were more treats to come.  Perhaps most surprising was the cheeky inclusion of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit. The ease with which she slipped this 60s classic into the set is perhaps the best indicator of her quirky, iconoclastic sound.