The pop star plays an emotional rollercoaster of a set at the Manchester festival
“Nothing terrifies a man more than a woman that appears completely deranged”, reads the screen behind Rebecca Taylor and her dancers as Self Esteem takes to the Parklife stage. Slowly, they reach up and wipe their hands across their faces, smearing red lipstick across their cheeks. Taylor herself goes in with particular gusto, rubbing her fingers deliberately over her eyes, smudging mascara and eyeshadow. Back in formation they go, to launch into new track ‘Mother’, which sees Taylor remind someone over and over that “I am not your mother, I’m not your mother, I am not your mum”.
It’s all a bit hypnotic. That’s the thing about a Self Esteem set – it’s a performance you can completely lose yourself in, deliberate in every detail. There’s no half-hearted choreography or repeated requests to the crowd to ‘sing’. Taylor’s crowd interaction overall is minimal but her connection to them is palpable. It’s an impressive thing to portray a shiny pop machine onstage and simultaneously manage to convey something real and raw. Self Esteem is a perfect pop artist not just in every beat she never misses, but in all her fury, pain and unapologetic womanhood.
‘F*cking Wizardry’, one of Prioritise Pleasure’s angriest tracks, is even angrier today on the Parklife stage, with Taylor practically spitting out the song’s bridge. ‘The 345’, a poignant track about holding each other up, sees tears on the faces of her dancers. In closer ‘I Do This All The Time’, she transitions from pop anthems to confessional spoken verses, stream of consciousness monologues that she delivers on her album in a tired monotone. Onstage, the words become something different. Taylor performs them as if each one is just coming to mind, ending the track with a group hug that she and her dancers hold for a good few seconds.
And then on comes No Doubt’s ‘It’s My Life’. Taylor, her dancers and her band form a cheerful conga line and off they go, dancing into the wings with big smiles, leaving behind a reeling crowd. There surely can’t be better way to round off a perfect pop performance.