Holly Humberstone charms a supportive crowd at O2 Forum Kentish Town

The singer-songwriter doesn’t hide her nerves as she shows the audience why she’s one to watch

There are cries of disappointment as Holly Humberstone walks off stage at O2 Forum Kentish Town. She’s left without playing arguable her two biggest hits. But everyone’s in on the joke, and the cheers when Humberstone walks back onstage a minute later are interspersed with laughter – this isn’t anyone’s first rodeo.

“That was so awkward,” she says, seating herself at the keyboard. “As if I’m going to leave without playing the ones you came here to hear.” A pause, as a thought hits her. “Thank God you guys cheered.”

Holly Humberstone - The Walls Are Way Too Thin (Official Video)

She launches into social anxiety anthem ‘The Walls Are Way Too Thin’, before closing out with ‘Falling Asleep At The Wheel’, which details the sad process of falling out of love with a long-term partner. Both are title tracks from her respective EPs, and both follow Humberstone’s songwriting recipe for success: an excellent concept, sharp lyrics and an effective hook. These two tracks do the biggest numbers on streaming, as she says, and are the ones people are most likely to know. She knew what to expect from this portion of the evening, but the rest of the night seems to have caught her off guard.

“Thank you guys for being so nice to me,” she says more than once. What she’s interpreting as good manners is a crowd that knows every word to every track, and greets each new song with screams of genuine delight. It must be overwhelming for an artist whose ascent to major indie pop act and BRIT Rising Star winner has been dizzyingly rapid. This is a performer at the start of her career, playing her biggest headline show to date. She hasn’t crafted a stage persona yet, or smoothed out the introductory monologues between songs, or learnt to disguise her nerves.

Holly Humberstone - London Is Lonely (Official Video)

But Humberstone never looks lost on stage, flitting between two keyboards, three microphones and a guitar with unconscious ease. She has no problem filling the Kentish Town venue with a clear, emotive vocal and moments of self-professed awkwardness give her performance an endearing sincerity. It helps as well that even those less familiar with her discography aren’t just waiting for the big tracks – every song in Humberstone’s repertoire sounds like a lead single. From the upbeat melancholy of ‘Vanilla’ to big city ballad ‘London Is Lonely’, there’s no filler here.

Her success rate is part of what makes her so exciting. The nervous energy in her performance is part of it too. Humberstone is a member of a new wave of young female singer-songwriters, having just opened in America for arguably the leader of the pack, Olivia Rodrigo. Signed to a major label, it would be naïve to say that she’s escaped the mechanisms of the pop machine. But in an era where authenticity and relatability have become increasingly engineered – look at the slew of TikTok ‘breakouts’ for evidence – it’s a delight to see the raw talent without the pop polish.

Find tickets for Holly Humberstone here.