Live Review: Kathryn Williams – Cluny 2, Newcastle

St Patrick’s Day, 2017, “let’s make this the quietest place on the Earth today,” states Kathryn Williams and this is what this gig was. Kicking off a packed out Cluny 2, in aid of the Percy Hedley Foundation here in the North East of England, was Moltisanti, who are made up of some Percy Hedley staff. It was the poppiest the night was going to get, with covers of Chvrches and All Saints and definitely got the crowd in an upbeat mood.

North East duo Emma and Alex McRae make up Skylark Song, and were second on the bill. With Alex on guitar and Emma on the violin and lead vocals, I was reminded why they initially caught my attention. They compliment each other so much and there’s something hauntingly familiar and engaging in Emma’s vocals. To actually get to hear it performed live with such an attentive audience was like magic on top of goosebumps, particularly when the likes of South American Shore and Take Your Place were given to us.

Stepping on stage to tune her guitar and turning on a shruti box, Kathryn Williams changed the meaning of St Patrick’s Day, as silence filled the room. Even when we could engage in conversation there wasn’t a whisper to be heard as we were captivated from her first note to the last. Even the drunk ones were quiet on the drunkest and rowdiest of Saint’s days.

Humble is how you would describe Williams. Before she performed Underground we were given a back-story to how she once had a panic attack and lay on the floor of Kings Cross station and came to write this. She also tells us it feels strange to be up there by herself but she is actually embracing it – in turn we embraced her, even though she looked quite vulnerable at times. Her performance, presence and engagement have an eerie beauty to it, which is probably why these mixed emotions were apparent to me. To understand this though you must come to a live Kathryn Williams show.

There was a loop pedal on the stage. It was actually quite a minimalistic set-up but the loop pedal, especially during Mirrors, evoked something that made it feel like she was no longer up there by herself. It might have been the song itself being big in sound, but as it reminisced a needle on a record with added radio waves, it echoed throughout the dark room. Just to make sure that every emotion was tapped, Heart Shaped Stone, probably one of Williams’s more poppier songs, blanketed the audience with warmth before the crowd ushered her back on as she jokingly crept off the stage for her encore.

Although Liverpool born, Newcastle adopted Williams as their own and there was no way they were letting her make a quick exit, and she obliged before declaring she is a major fan of both the song and artist…no introductions were needed as a cover of the late Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah ended the night with perfection.

Words & Image by Victoria Ling