Stella Donnelly @ The Castle Hotel

By Dan Holderness


Stella Donnelly treated a packed out Castle Hotel crowd in Manchester’s Northern Quarter to an intimate gig of jazzy guitar lines with complimentary vocals of tales of love and Australian life.

The eager Castle Hotel crowd witnessed a minimal stage set up with just Stella Donnelly, her pink Stratocaster and beautiful voice. Some basic blue tinted lighting complimented Donnelly’s outfit choice of a black top and light blue pants.

Stella Donnelly began the night with a brilliant cover of Lianne La Havas’ – No Room For Doubt. Having only heard the original song very recently being a new La Havas fan, Donnelly did the song justice injecting her own personal spin on the track.

As Donnelly’s setlist went on, she began to fill in the gaps whilst tuning up her guitar with lots of wit and anecdotes about all things from bad Tinder dates to Australian alcoholic drinks. Apparently, the light blue pants were bought from a thrift store in America and she only realised afterwards that they were nurses scrubs trousers, much to the amusement of The Castle crowd when she says they have many pockets for “stethoscopes” and other belongings.

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Boys Will Be Boys was a rare poignant moment during the set, with Donnelly admitting that the song touches openly on a sexual assault a close friend had experienced. The pre-song introduction was received with a triumphant cheer from the audience as she pointed out not all guys are like the boys referenced in the song, and it was time for a change on the lad culture outlook.

Throughout the set, Donnelly the handled crowd with ease, oozing the kind of confidence that is surprising for a new artist with not much practice on the road. The Manchester crowd were extremely receptive considering it was the last night of a sunny bank holiday weekend, greeting Donnelly with a lot of laughs, and even a shy tear during the slower numbers.

The 11 song set, featured 6 songs from the Thrush Metal EP, (Mechanical Bull, Boys Will Be Boys, Mean to Me, Grey, A Poem, Talking). The EP will be reissued on 12” vinyl on the 22nd June through her new label Secretly Canadian. Donnelly was modest throughout the set claiming she only expected to sell only 30 or so of the EP tapes initially “to her Mum and her friends”, but it has been so well received she now regrets the picture of her eating noodles as the iconic cover and the tongue in cheek title.

A personal standout moment of the night was her last song, Mean To Me. Donnelly perhaps joking on the lack of other instruments through a basic stage set up by referencing a “sad violin solo” during this song, before performing a vocal solo in place of the sad violin. Let’s hope Stella Donnelly doesn’t leave it too long until she revisits Manchester and with a set like this, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her playing to a bigger crowd next time around.

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