Another single launch gig at The Oporto, but it was so much more than that. I’d been looking forward to seeing Cat Una ever since I first heard her beautiful current single ‘Wait It Out’ – read our review – but what I didn’t know that it was going to be a perfect Sunday night gig. Three wonderful singers singing wonderful songs – different but all wonderful in their own way.
Opening the night was Will Killen – backed by a drummer and guitarist. He’s somebody I’ve heard of but never heard anything by him before. His songs immediately impressed. Will does that rich sounding singer/songwriter thing – lush sounding arrangements, sparse drums. Songs that musically build towards their end.
And the words in these songs are important and well written, as they need to be when they are so upfront and central. And he delivers these words simply, the songs might allow for a more ‘flashy’ vocal style but his vocals are restrained, he lets the words do the talking.
And even though the songs musically swell at times there is an overwhelming sense of gentleness and calm in the songs, and in his voice.
The current single – ‘Overthinking’ – is a more strident sounding song, although perhaps strident is too strong a word, a better way of putting it would be that it has ‘more’ in the arrangement. The music is more upfront. The song that follows is more ‘beaty’ and then at the end it goes all free jazz guitar. Well, he did say it was ‘weird’ when he introduced the song. But it’s incredible.
Looking back at his set, it builds like his songs do. There’s a musical story or journey in the way he put the songs together. Will is somebody I’m keen to see again.
Sandwiched – so to speak – between two artists who had ‘bands’ was somebody who delivered songs with voice and acoustic – Kate Stapley. Her songs are kinda folky, that’s there but it’s only there in the feel. I was reminded at times of Joni Mitchell in her delivery.
Kate is hugely engaging, she introduces her songs, she talks to us. She’s incredibly relaxed and makes you part of her set. Her songs range from ‘serious’ to funny and quirky, but they come with a personal thing, they’re very clearly based on her life.
There were two highlights for me. One a song called, I think, ‘Work’, a song about working – obviously! And second a song I loved because of the way it was introduced. It was s song about a pigeon being knocked over by a cyclist. The introduction involved tangents into the artisan shops selling ‘posh cheese and coffee’ in her home town of Bristol. And yes, the song lyrics mentioned those. The song itself was called ‘Cycle Killer’ and was strangely moving, and sadly funny.
Her music and songs are not the usual kind of thing I like but I found myself drawn to it. She’s a hugely entertaining performer.
Since I first heard Cat Una’s current single – ‘Wait It Out’ – seeing her live had become something of a compulsion. That song is beautiful and has become lodged on my list of favourite ever songs – an ever lengthening list to be honest, try as I might to keep it manageable.
She is accompanied on stage by a horde of people – playing guitar, keyboards, double bass and percussion (is four people a horde? On the Oporto stage it is).
Her first song is called ‘Wasted’ and it is lovely. The voice that captivated me is there, and it’s as well written as ‘Wait It Out’. Her second is somewhat torch song like and comes with a lilting melody. These two songs left me with relief. Because you see I had this anxiety, an anxiety that I wouldn’t like her other songs as much as the one I’ve fallen in love with.
Before I go on I want to say that Cat’s songs are timeless, they seem to be influenced by all sorts of music, music from the past and now. There is a root of something folky there but sometimes they’re not, sometimes they are almost jazzy. They would clearly work just as well with just her voice and guitar, they don’t need the extra musicians to work but those extra musicians don’t overwhelm the songs they add to them.
I did, I have to be honest, just get drawn into her music, I was mesmerised and captivated by it. Because I was listening to the words, her words are amazing, the way she sings those words is compelling. Those songs deserve your complete attention.
She performed two new songs – so new that she said she hadn’t had time to teach her band them – on her own. One a beautiful song about Sardinia (where her mother is from) called ‘The Valley’ and a song called ‘Santa Fe’. I really loved hearing her music that stripped back.
The single strangely benefits from being live, or perhaps not so strangely. I felt a connection with the song hearing it in its recorded form but more so live.
At the end of her set I was left somewhat speechless and reeling. Somebody asked me what I thought of her and about all I could say was that ‘she is incredible’. That performance has stayed with me, I can still see and hear it in my head. This happens very infrequently, I see so much live music that seldom does that happen.
If you get the chance to see Cat perform, do that, whether she’s singing solo or with her band. You won’t be disappointed.
All photos on this page © Frank Roper Photography – see more on his Facebook Page