Hebden Bridge Trades Club
21st November 2021
Salford songwriter Ren Harvieu was once tipped for the top, but after a long hiatus she is back with a red hot band, and a set full of classic British pop music with a Northern tinge to them.
From the moment Ren Harvieu slinked onto the small stage in a PVC dress that she described made her feel like a ‘Disney villain’ it was clear that one of the great lost hopes of British pop was back.
Harvieu’s first album Through The Night is one you should seek out, packed with big songs to match her equally gigantic voice, but a freak accident stalled her career. Now nearly a decade later she’s back with a newish record, Revel In The Drama, on the uber-trendy Bella union label, and it was certainly worth the wait. Wisely for this comeback tour, she recruited a red-hot band, including three – yes, three – keyboard players, to march the sophistication of the recorded music. She was also joined by Magic Numbers guitarist Romeo Stodart, who produced the new record, and his sister Michele who contributed some very funky bass.
Her new found confidence was evident from the get-go as she launched into the single Teenage Mascara, which was lush, and allowed Harvieu to unleash those pipes. The bossa nova riff of Strange Things was dedicated to the socially awkward folk, and Harvieu asked for the lights to be turned down for effect, and you partly suspect she wasn’t that comfortable in the bright lights swirling around the stage.
Another single the bittersweet This is How You Make Me Feel, complete with big arm sweeps, added electronic pluses and violin, plus a glorious solo from Mr Stoddart. It was a testament to her confidence that she was debuting some new songs tonight including the punchy Soft, which this proud Salfordian said was about the armour you learn to wear in a tough place like Broughton where she grew up. She also noted that after this tour she was off back to North London to become a ghost, haunting the area in her pyjamas. Ok, but don’t leave it a long time before you release album number 3.
This was a set of old and new tunes, so she went right back to Through The Night, written when she was 17, which really benefitted from the musicality of her sharp band. Now fully settled Harvieu battered a tom tom as she blasted out new song Yes Please about taking back control, and you felt that Harvieu was unveiling her manifesto.
Another new gem was the raw and heartfelt narrative of Salford Superstar, which recalled Harvieu trawling around the local talent circuit performing in front of rough boys before scoring a big win only ten minutes from her home. Her mum Marion hatched a plan with her teenage daughter to make it which – thank god – included not appearing on X Factor as it was career suicide. Harvieu dedicated a powerful version of Who Knows Where the Time Goes to her mum who was in the audience.
Harvieu wrote another newbie The Wonder Of It All, after a stroll in her local park looking through the leaves, this inspired her to pen a positive song that didn’t sound very positive with the violinist playing a saw for some reason. The set closed with a high energy version of Open Up Your Arms, as the hardcore fans who have stuck with her lustily sang along with as Harvieu beamed out over them.
On the same night, an affable pub singer was on network TV plugging her more of the same album to assembled ‘celebrities’, in direct contrast every song and note delivered here was way, way, more interesting than that. It’s always exciting when you see great potential finally realised and an artist finding their voice like a reborn Ren Harvieu.
Words by Paul Clarke, you can see his author profile here.