Prima Queen

Prima Queen at Lafayette review | Sweet, sisterly songs from rising stars with a lot more to give

Prima Queen took to London’s Lafayette amid a current run of headline UK shows, in a gig that demonstrated just why they’re ones to watch – and how much more they’ll give in years ahead.


When Louise Macphail, one half of transatlantic indie-folk duo Prima Queen, was a teenager, she’d write reviews for magazines to get free tickets to gigs. She admitted to us in a recent interview that what she’d write was somewhat naive, but at least it would bag her the freebie. Nonetheless, it’s an example of her insatiable appetite to be around and involved in the music scene – a trait which led her to convince creative soulmate Kristin McFadden to join her on a musical venture when the pair met on a course in London. 

With that in mind, let’s have a bit of nuance about this review, shall we? Prima Queen are terrific. They pen tunes that have enough specificity to be genuinely original, but enough broad brush strokes to touch on the universal. Their latest EP, Not The Baby, for instance, commences with the on-off love story of ‘Back Row’ (“You still came to my show and you stood there in the back row / And I kept my eyes on you just to prove that I was sorry”) before segueing into the deft lullaby tones of ‘Crow’ (“Sometimes the kindest thing to do is let it die”).

At Lafayette, this penchant for wordplay – and the obvious ease that floats between Macphail and McFadden – was evident for all who packed-out the 600-capacity venue. But what remains most exciting about the band, flanked by bassist Kitty Drummond and drummer Heledd Owen, is just how much more you feel they have to offer; how much more mastery of the crowd and stage they’ll develop, which can only really happen with time.

Prima Queen

Photo: Bonnie Ophelia

That’s not to say Prima Queen are complete novices. You don’t tour with Wet Leg and The Big Moon out of nowhere. But with their debut EP only released at the start of this month, adding to a handful of single releases, they’re certainly still cutting their teeth. (Their second-placed finish at Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent Competition gives an indication of where they’re presently at, as a terrific new act to keep your eye on).

Speaking of teeth, they kicked-off the show with the steadily inclining tune ‘Chew My Cheeks’ (a track that was in fact produced by The Big Moon too) before aforementioned ‘Back Row’, which sounds like a song destined to be played amid the sunny afternoon of a festival – sunnies on, arms swaying in the summer breeze.

Their rendition of tune ‘Brownstone’ was surprisingly one of the most tender moments, with its pangs of “I don’t believe in most anything / But maybe this time”; written in 2020, it was also a reminder they have a deeper oeuvre than you might first realise.

There wasn’t much by way of audience interaction – an aspect of performance that will grow as they no doubt climb through the gears. But we were at least told, to a sweet cheer from the crowd, that it was Macphail’s mother’s birthday, which marked a touching interlude before they slid into the spoken word-infused ‘Butter Knife’, a track which is about the loss of a loved one, and a reminder to make the most of those around us now.

The final two tunes of Not The Baby, played in reverse order from the record, would round-up the pre-encore setlist. ‘Hydroplane’, with its grunge-y riffs and reflections on familial relations, demonstrated the pair’s near-telepathic harmonies. ‘Dylan’, meanwhile, provided a bit of rock verve, but also showed just how much more you know the pair will one day expend, perhaps in a larger setting or with more experience under their belts.

Their encore track ‘Eclipse’, a drum-swelling indie-rock banger with its perfectly relatable call-and-response refrain “But you don’t know that I’m fucked up / And I’m not over my last love”, highlighted the pair are on the trajectory of bigger and louder things. In total, this was a show that evidenced their skill, whilst also showing how much more they have to give – and likely will in the years ahead.

I wonder if a young Macphail review would say the same.

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