Even before Holly Golightly finished The White Stripes' Elephant by playing Jack White's frustrated amour in the myth-tweaking, outrageous "It's True That We Love One Another" then, song over, offering the Whites a "cup o' tea", she had a reputation. As one of Thee Headcoatees, Kent underground legend Billy Childish's auxiliary girl-group wing (who sometimes dressed as go-go dancers, or crop-cracking horsewomen - emphasising the fun in Childish's blues-based, punk-inflected 1960s beat vision) she only played Childish's songs.
But, since she nervously began to record solo in 1995, she has become more associated with the Stripes - one of several US underground collaborations which make her our unofficial garage-rock ambassador.
Her own songwriting style has developed over 10 quickly-recorded LPs into a sort of beat-blues chanteuse. But it may be what she represents that accounts for the healthy crowd at this Christmas show - a stylish female role model à la her Breakfast at Tiffany's namesake, with the dress sense of Audrey Hepburn and the transgressive edge of Truman Capote's original, prostitute, Holly. Tonight's venue - a red-lit Islington cellar (simulating early 1960s trad jazz and rock hang-outs) and audience (some even bearded and dressed like Beatniks) add to the appealing fantasy. Golightly herself though, takes a while to live up to her famous name and friends.
She is wearing an almost-sleeveless black dress and a piled-up turban of vaguely Hepburn-like hair, a lock of which flops down over her face.
Playing guitar with a three-piece male band, she is unassuming, complaining we "just stand there and look" at her as if, after eight years, standing in the spotlight still bothers her. Although her face is at times caught half in shadow, moodily still, her personality isn't built for mystique. Recent single "Walk A Mile" is an early clue to her musical tastes. Its lyrics are a snarling mass of contradictions: the megalomania of "You want to see something new, try being me" makes her smirk with her own effrontery, but is followed by equal self-laceration, a bluesman's bragging potency confused by modern neurosis.
A vigorous go at Pentangle's British folk-rock staple "Sally Go Round the Roses", interrupts an otherwise gently single-paced series of ballads, unexceptional background music to the Swinging London movie her fans wish to live in. It's only with the snarling vengeance blues of "Empty Heart" that she again slips into her own gear, spitting bile - "I never wanted to sing your rotten songs/ But your songs must be sung" - that could be aimed at Childish. The sultry bass and stiletto stamp of "Your Love Is Mine" destroys another lover like Nancy Sinatra would and, by the time the Dirtbombs' girl bassist Ko joins Golightly on stage, she is bellowing filthily, the inhibitions that are part of her quiet appeal hurled off. Golightly's music may be more limited and domestic than the Stripes, home-made for small, friendly gatherings like this. But she has her own beat girl bite.Reuse content