Wednesday, April 25, 2012


The worst thing a singer can do is tell you how hungover they are” said Huw Evans aka H. Hawkline before telling us how hungover he was. He later went on to tell us the next song was about a dream, apparently another unwritten cardinal sin for singers on stage. If H. Hawkline was breaking any rules – real or made-up – he’s allowed to in my book if turning in a support slot this strong, especially if worse for wear poor lad. Alone on stage he played seven songs on electric guitar - some written to be played with a band, some not - about toffee-apple cheeks, sex-cult druids, broken fingers, love and suffering that gently veered from fractured folk lament to terse garage-rock with a touch of lovelorn blues too. Even if never predictable which kind of H Hawkline live experience you will get – raucous or quiet, solo or full band – he continues to be a consistently excellent, engaging and witty rule-breaker.

If H Hawkline had been sunny of disposition and brightly lit, the headline set was of much darker and mysterious hue. Largely in darkness with surreal Casey Raymond videos playing in the background, Cate Le Bon and three-piece backing band – including H Hawkline on organ and Sweet Baboo on bass – played a set largely made up of faithful but loud and frazzled versions of songs from new album “Cyrk” plus a few extras. The murky darkness and the flickering films – from Victorian freakshow dancing dogs and conjoined twins to the pastoral simplicity of horses roaming in fields – could have been a distraction except the magnetic performance of Cate Le Bon.

I’ve already swooned over the new album so hearing these songs live was odds-on to be a joy but Cate’s compelling stage presence plus the tautness and power of the playing made this extra special. That cool, almost glacial intoning and middle distance stare whilst at the microphone I was expecting but less so her assured stance behind the guitar or a lost-in-the-moment swaying and singing through hair plastered across her face.

Cate Le Bon started the evening telling us how she had thrown up before going on stage in London the night before. Really? My first time seeing Cate Le Bon live was at the Far Out Stage at Green Man in 2009, just after "Me Oh My" came out, and yes she appeared a little nervous then. But with two years plus of gigs under her belt including recent US tour plus two acclaimed albums, not only should she have no reason for nerves, there was not a hint of it in tonight’s performance. A jaw-droppingly great gig that was as cleverly sequenced and as full of dark twists and enigmatic mystery as the new record – so good it was easy to block out the few drunken hecklers and assorted chatterers. “Manchester I love you but tonight your creeping me out”. Apologies for the creeps Ms Le Bon but please keep coming back with your own superior brand of musical creepiness.

The Set List

Fold The Cloth
Eyes So Bright
Cyrk / Seaside
The Man I Wanted
Puts Me To Work
Me Oh My
Ploughing Out Pts 1 + 2
Ole Spain

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