LIVE: Billy Nomates – YES, Manchester

It’s half past ten and I’m already home from tonight’s Billy Nomates gig. I didn’t rush back. She might only play for 45 minutes (fair enough with just one album and one EP under her belt) but boy does she pack some fucking energy into that three quarters of an hour.

Two points to quickly get out of the way before the review. One – for anyone due to see Billy Nomates on the rest of the tour – it’s just her, a mic and a laptop. This is how she writes and makes music, she doesn’t work with a band so don’t go in and expecting a drummer and bass player. Plus, taking a full band on tour is going to be expensive. And for someone who’s still a new artist, who’s not been able to tour until now, touring hopefully being an income generator, there simply isn’t the budget for this. Both are important points you should consider in full before jumping to any disappointed conclusions when you see her. Two – the crowd. From the aggressive back prodding man behind me (I’m not tall, there was lots of space, see my article from Wednesday. It seems ‘cities are becoming a bloodsport’ after all.) to a general lack of atmosphere. Apart from a few dedicated fans down the very front there was little response until the final rousing round of applause when the crowd seemed to suddenly double in size through volume alone. It was a little odd.

Anyway, back to the gig. Billy, aka Tor, barely stopped moving for the duration. My appalling photos are testament to the speed at which she moves, bouncing on poised toes, left arm swinging.

‘Hippy Elite’ has been my favourite since I first heard it in the summer of 2020. Her expertly honed sense for satire of some sections of modern society is unparalleled right now. Performed live, the added sweaty vitriol only enhances one of the best lyrical observations of our times.

This was somewhat lost on tonight’s crowd who obediently and obliviously danced along to the ‘everybody twist for me / come on and crack your knees honey / bend your back please baby’ of ‘No’. The whole point of the song being not doing what others say and making your own slightly belligerent way in the world.

There was little time to reflect between songs, the pace was relentless and efficient. Tor scheduled several functional interludes into her set, presumably to give herself a little break. One featured audio from a Boris Johnson speech which is not my idea of a relaxing break but certainly served to further motivate her on her one woman crusade against patriarchal bullshit. ‘Fat White Man’ followed swiftly after. Restraining the physical movement on this slower number allowed her to channel her energy into the words, resulting in the most engaging performance of the night. Such was the power of those words, Tor felt the need to explain and apologise to any ‘fat white men’ present who weren’t the arrogant character depicted in the song.

‘Escape Artist’ was another highlight, with the refrain of ‘get me out of here / drag me out of this / hellhole’ being an unexpected singalong, the words by now in no way reflecting the crowd’s improved mood.

And with little pretence, the one song encore was done and the gig was over. The levels of energy, genuine focused rage and word-perfect performance (in spite of how out of breath she must have been) were more than enough for much longer set, leaving us fully satisfied.

I can only be impressed by someone who can be much more than the sum of her one part, night after night. She’s said ‘No’ to doing what you expect from a live act and I’ll give her the credit she deserves.

Words by James Spearing

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