The "Monday Night Thing" regular series of concerts at Perth Theatre is back with a bang! The previous run of gigs featured some amazing musicians from near and far. From Perth blues stars Wang Dang Delta and local folk heroes Ross and Ali, to English singer-songwriter Martin Simpson and Transylvanian born Lizabett Russo. After a summer hiatus, it has returned with one hell of a lineup. Again featuring a mixture of hometown greatness, from Katie Whitaker of Red Pine Fame and ace of bass Roberto Cassani, to The Boy with the Arab Strap Aidan Moffat and the 'biggest little band on earth' Lightnin' Willie and The Poorboys. Tonight though, we can look forward to a special performance of Scottish pianist and singer Kathryn Joseph's acclaimed new album "From When I Wake The Want Is". The album is to be played in its entirety in collaboration with groundbreaking music theatre company Cryptic Glasgow, in what promises to a hypnotic and compelling affair.
a captivating lyric floating on a voice that is part Grace Slick warble and part eerie Tanya Donnely sweetnessAs always, there are no shortage of music-loving Perthshire residents willing to venture out on a Monday night to get their cultural fix. As such my girlfriend Jo and I arrive from the bar just in time to grab a couple of the few remaining seats ahead of the performance beginning. Kathryn walks onstage, enveloped in a wall of ambient noise and wearing a decidedly gothic ribcage dress designed by Marketa Kratochvilova. As she takes her seat at the piano, she is lit by one stark L.E.D light. The tender opening notes of 'IIII' ring out and she initially faces the corner, only pivoting to meet our gaze as the song intensifies. Next up is the title track, with its insistent, bell-like right hand and a captivating lyric floating on a voice that is, part Grace Slick warble and part eerie Tanya Donnely sweetness. The words are really haunting and raw. At first, seemingly unsettling with the line "in its back and spine, the hold of me over your bones have of mine" but ultimately reassuring with the repeating refrain "all the doubt we had died out".
The deeper we get into the album the more I begin to appreciate the thoughtful, immersive and theatrical nature of the performance. James Johnson's basic but effective set consists of freestanding mirrors that at times, seem to entrap Joseph like Marlene Dietrich in Orson Welles "Lady From Shanghai". Even Kathryn's wine holder seems to be incorporated into an elaborate Object D'Art, made up of strung together magnifying glasses! Jo and I had recently managed to catch St. Vincent as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. We both agree that Joseph seems much more organic and surefooted with the way she incorporates elements of visual arts into her live show.
"And I Will Lick You Clean" seems to be the answer to the question "What would it sound like if John Carpenter and Polly Harvey wrote a horror movie theme together?"Of course, this would all mean nothing if the music wasn't there to back it up. The creepy "And I Will Lick You Clean" seems to be the answer to the question "What would it sound like if John Carpenter and Polly Harvey wrote a horror movie theme together?" Pretty damn awesome as it turns out, with it's catchy and peculiarly timed piano riff, electronic cymbals and slightly sweary lyric. This is followed by the brilliant but bleak "There Is No God But You". The epic "Safe" with its combination of spoken word and sung sections, oddly reminds me of R.E.M.'s "Belong".
Before she plays the beautiful "We Have Been Loved By Our Mothers", Joseph takes a moment to flip over the mirror's and as she begins to play, the colour palette seems to have lightened considerably. This song seems to be musically much more straightforward and sunny than it's predecessors, oozing understanding with the lyric "We have been loved by our mothers. We do not know our own brothers. Why would we ever hurt another? All of us f**ked and now." We return to a slightly more unsettling territory with "Mouths Full of Blood". Not a traditional love song I'll grant you, but it manages to create something grimly beautiful out of a difficult albeit temporary breakup. I may be a weirdo but I found it's emotionally turbulent melodies oddly re-assuring. Particularly as it was at this point that I noticed the intriguing shapes that the hammers on Joseph's piano made as they obscured the strings.
The final song is the all too brief "^^". I'm not down with the kids when it comes to emoticons, so I don't know if those particular keystrokes have any specific meaning. Either way, "^^" is a fragile piano ballad that puts me in mind of one of my favourite songs of all time, the amazing "Dark is Rising" by Mercury Rev. There is a similar laid bare quality to Kathryn's vocal on this sparse but brilliant track, plaintively sung and dripping with emotion. The evening couldn't have ended on a more fitting note.
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