HER review – enigmatic star rocks, and sensuously rolls

Manchester Academy
The singer and multi-instrumentalist showcases her talents with terrific R&B songs as well as shredding Prince-style guitar solos

HER is the alias of 25-year-old R&B vocalist Gabriella Wilson, a US child star mentored by Alicia Keys who made her first TV appearances aged 10. In the six years since anonymously dropping her Grammy-nominated debut single, Focus, enigma has been her hard currency. As on social media and her award-show performances, HER arrives on stage in signature dark glasses that stay fixed throughout the set. It complements her other hard currency; Prince comparisons, something underlined by plenty of purple lighting.

HER’s discography is a pot-pourri of collaborations that may provide streaming ubiquity, but have left her studio releases uneven. So while tonight’s gig may open with the bombastic DJ Khaled collaboration We Going Crazy, it’s a red herring for a set that finds a genuine consistency for the multi-instrumentalist’s obvious gifts.

“If you’ve never been to a HER show before tonight, then we’re going to do all the feels,” she explains, her brief onstage affirmations about gratitude and the journey of the last few years doing little to unpack her enigma. Flanked by full live band, the sensuous R&B of early singles Could’ve Been and U are terrific – slow jams with gluttonous low-end, swirling 80s production and delicate paisley guitar flourishes.

Tonight being a pitstop from a blockbuster Coldplay tour support slot, there are cover versions handcrafted for the least interested stadium back row. Lauryn Hill’s The Sweetest Thing, performed acoustically, provides a cameraphone moment while giving a nod towards HER’s creative ambition. Initially, a medley of I Love Rock’n’Roll into We Will Rock You lands as tacky, but by fusing it with one of her strongest tracks, 2021’s Glory, it convinces as an audacious land grab of rock tropes.

It’s the near finale of We Made It, though, which astounds. HER’s most ambitious track, it features the singer rapping while playing drums, then centre-stage in diva soul mode, before seeing out the song’s thrilling climax on her knees, shredding the kind of gnarly guitar solo that’s been out of pop favour her entire lifetime. Left to her own devices, an immense talent.


Fergal Kinney

The GuardianTramp

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