Live Music + Gig Reviews

Self Esteem @ Hammersmith Apollo, London

11 March 2023

Rebecca Lucy Taylor shows herself to be a new icon, continuing to build on the success of Prioritise Pleasure in a joyous declaration of sapphic sensuality

Self Esteem (Photo: Olivia Richardson)

Self Esteem (Photo: Olivia Richardson)

Amidst sapphic screams from the queer heaven that has descended on the Hammersmith Apollo, Rebecca Lucy Taylor stands at the top of a staircase to nowhere – four lights behind her, three backing performers either side – silhouetted. The crowd, already whipped into a frenzy by Drag Race runner up Bimini, take a collective breath. They’ve already been dancing in the aisles, be it the booze, the bops, or simply just the queerness with which the crowd shines. Bimini’s going to be a hard act to follow, we think – but the second the drone-heavy intro to Prioritise Pleasure kicks in, we realise we are so fucking wrong.

Everyone screams. Everyone jumps to their feet. It’s like a pulse goes through the crowd, a surge of joy – here we are not singled out, the awkward gay cousin, the moody sapphic femme daughter, the gay drunk uncle. Here we are community, here we are many, we are legion and here, through the power of Self Esteem, we will be given permission over and over and over to be imperfect, to be messy, to be unkind, to be compassionate to be raw, real. Later, Taylor will quip “Thanks, I needed to make a new memory in this room”. Yeh. So did we.

The backing performers, dressed impeccably in Annie Lennox-esque suits, descend the staircase. We fall into the excited, racing, dancing intro of Fucking Wizardry and it’s all a disco – the long awaited line we all get to scream at the same time – “To even get near to me was some fucking wizardry” nearly blows the top off the venue. Prior to mardy-ass-anthem ‘Moody’, we feel Taylor relax into her performance, and any initial stiffness in her movements falls away – “this is a song about me being a moody bitch,” she drawls in her trademark Rotherham tinged accent.

There are a number of stand out moments. The onstage costume change, pure white outfits that suddenly disintegrate into defiant red backed by an unrelenting, unyielding choral vocal. The dance routines, tight, on point – never one moment out of step with each other – women moving as one, together in a society that teaches them to tear each other apart a rebellion all of its own. Women, unapologetically taking up space, using their bodies as art. The rhinestone cowboy hat flashing in the backlights.

Queer longing is centre stage, and by the time we’re treated to Girl Crush from first album Compliments Please, a song that previously could have been loaded with negativity (about fucking straight girls), it feels like a joyous declaration of sapphic sensuality. During The 345 Taylor becomes our mother. She tells us “I just wanna let you know there’s a point in you, And I know you find it harder than your peers do, But you got it like that, If you need it like that, Put it all on my back, I’ll carry it” – we’re in this together, we carry each other.

We needed a messenger. A new icon, a saint for the millennials (and millennials it is, mostly). Because, most, if not all of us have no idea what we are doing. Born too late to ever own a house, to ever get a ‘proper job’, to save money, to invest – there is no way millennials will ever live up to what they’ve been taught are societal expectations. So we struggle. With ourselves, with our parents; we become depressed, moody, full of anxiety, especially when we’re queer. We assume we’re the problem when the world is the problem, and in Self Esteem we are given the permission to be not-okay, and what’s more, we can be not-okay together – and hold each other whilst we process with love.

As they collapse inwards, limbs around each other – vibrating joy from every cell – Self Esteem leave us with a message from the lyrics of Still Reigning: “The love you need is gentle, The love you need is kind, I figured that out after all this alone time.”

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More on Self Esteem
Self Esteem @ Hammersmith Apollo, London
Self Esteem – Prioritise Pleasure
Self Esteem – Compliments Please