SHHE @ Summerhall, Edinburgh, 23 Jan

Summerhall bears witness to a lovely evening of spacey synth-pop from Su Shaw, accompanied throughout by an astonishing light show

Live Review by Jo Higgs | 27 Jan 2020
  • SHHE

One could be forgiven for assuming Summerhall’s Main Hall, a spacious room with vast, stretching ceilings, would prove quite a task for a solo performer to sonically fill. Yet, an acute dynamic awareness, paired with a more than impressive use of quadrophonic sound (four separate speakers, each providing a different taste of the sonic palette) ensure the space is filled to the brim. Prefacing SHHE's headline set is, coincidentally enough, a friend of hers from their prior tenure working at the Summerhall Box Office – Louise McCraw, aka Goodnight Louisa.

Despite a live minimalism in comparison with the delicately recorded studio versions of her tracks, an undeniable magic is retained within the renditions we are gifted. A not-quite-tangible sparkling energy comes from the quality of songwriting evident in singles such as Hollow God and Someone So Sublime, as well as the sheer power and dynamic range of McCraw’s voice.

Listening to Su Shaw’s debut album under the moniker SHHE is more than a treat. Its weaving melodies and vast array of comforting textures are homely and warming, whilst also presenting a somewhat haunting atmosphere when it fits. Tonight's set is that album in full, track-by-track. From crisp drum-pad percussion to twanging reverb-dripping guitar lines, Shaw combats layered live instrumentation self-assuredly without distracting from her soft voice and the lyrical intonations and abstractions it communicates.

With Saint Cyrus, Shaw provides an almost anthemic vocal performance over a weird, jilted funk beat while tripping guitar lines tangle and toy with each other. In Emma, perhaps the standout moment of the evening, synth sounds ripple out in gorgeous ringlets of melody, panning from speaker to speaker and swirling around the enraptured room.

This lovely evening of spacey synth-pop is accompanied throughout by an astonishing light show, at points shrouding the performers in clouds of dry ice only to be pierced by passing beams, and at other times shimmering like the synths in abstract shapes on the ceiling.