Friday, 27 September 2013

Kathryn Williams : The Belle Of St Marys (Guildford)

Kathryn Williams & Alex Cornish - Old St Mary's Church - Guildford 26\9\13

As I am duty bound to see Kathryn play if she is within 40 mins drive from my house (or in London, Cambridge, Chester.....) I sped my way through rush hour traffic to the historic town of Guildford with its Olympic size lido.

The gig was in St Mary's Church off the High Street but when I wandered up to the only door I could see it was ghostly quiet. Was the gig cancelled due to the band overdosing on bananas on the M3? 

Upon opening said entrance I was greeted by a packed church, every pew full with the faithful and a bloke in a dress by the altar clearly leading them in mass. I quickly shut the door as loudly as I felt it had opened to disturb the congregation currently staring in my direction. The tremulous 'Fuuuuck' I exclaimed may have also got their attention. I bolted out of the graveyard with a man I assumed to be the verger shouting 'Oi you!' at the clean pair of heels on display.  

A quick mercy call to Kathryn's manager led me to the OTHER St Mary's Church just off the high street. Unlike the other place this had different flavours of wine but none of those little round biscuits. Despite being a heathen child, I love gigs in churches - for completive, quiet and soul caressing music like we were expecting tonight - its damned (arf!) near perfect.

Alex Cornish's support set was a wonderful start to the evening. His on stage persona immediately warms you to him and his songs with a confident air and easy going manner. He plays as yet unrecorded songs requesting feedback later on whether to include them on his next LP. Both a charming move and to ensure people's attendance at the merchandise stall at the end of the night. 'The First & The Last' was haunting stuff so thats the one to get the thumbs up from me. 

He admitted that 'Skyline Of Paris' had been played recently at a wedding service but also at two funerals. so if any couple are struggling for music for their nuptials - check it out so he can even the score. 'Footnote On A Page' about his hometown of Dunbar bewitching in its yearning and melancholy. Made me want to see him play a full set which I very rarely say about support acts but more often than not with Kathryn's. What did happen to that Damien Rice fella?

I must confess this is the 5th time I have seen Kathryn play this year so far so my stalker credentials are well and truly there for all to see. I do go see other things as my still delicate head and tinnitus from the Pixies gig the night before attested to but it really has been fascinating hearing her new songs grow and develop over the space of a few months. 

Kathryn's band was back to full strength tonight with Jon Thorne on double bass adding real weight and depth to the arrangements of the new songs. Kathryn is playing 'Crown Electric' tracks at the start of the set which reflects her pride and confidence in them plus her audiences' ability to not skip to the toilet or bar. The toilet itself plays an offstage role tonight - its loud hissing upon flushing echoing through the chapel. Kathryn's audiences are like none I have encountered elsewhere - quiet, appreciative and free of wazzocks with mobiles or chatterers. A friend who attended one of her shows with me said afterwards "Her audience are even silent BETWEEN the songs".  

Now that the new album is about to "drop", as the kids say, Kathryn is clearly having fun exploring songs like 'Count' and 'The Known' to see what lies beneath. Little inflections here, different emphasis and vocal changes there bring fresh meaning for the listener too. She displays her vulnerable side "I wrote this whilst lying on Kings Cross Station having a panic attack" she says of 'Underground' but a slightly mardy soundman gets a tersely proud 'Don't try it with me, I'm from the North'. 

But at heart she's a lover not a fighter and a gratefulness for love and some kind of stability is at the heart of many of the songs from 'Crown Electric'. 'Of all the fishes in the sea, you cast your net, you chose me' from the infectious single 'Heart Shaped Stone, 'That's the most important part of all, someone to catch your fall" from 'Out Of Time'. These tunes ache with longing, needing and giving. Live, they become drenched in melancholy but Kathryn many times takes you by surprise with an emotional outburst or whispered line. 

'Sequins' remains the album and gig highlight for me and she really emphasis the humour and deep wish for the  'medication\finally feeling numb' tonight. There is a glint in her eye as if she has stepped into the woman's shoes as she traipses through heaven. Alex Cornish picks out the song's refrain so sweetly and gives the whole set a lift with his playing. The set ends with 'Grey Goes' as Kathryn performs onstage sampling and making the walls vibrate with a monster final note. Her cover of The Boss' 'Dancing In the Dark' really does give a new spin on the the lyrics, she turns a poppy track about writing songs into an appeal for peace, love and understanding. A lovely note to finish on.  

So by the time I am due to see Kathryn again in Chester she will have been all round the country so I urge you not to miss seeing this tour - Alex and Kathryn combined make for a superb night out. Support smaller artists, support smaller venues - get out of the house and prepare to be moved & dazzled by their talent. 

Click these links!

Live Dates

The new album 'Crown Electric' out next Monday (30th September)

Read this MOJO review!

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