Live Review: Kathryn Joseph, Tramway, Glasgow, Thu 13 Sep
- Lorna Irvine
- 14 September 2018
Thrilling live performance of singer-songwriter's second album
Few artists make sad music quite as visceral or beguiling as Scottish singer-songwriter Kathryn Joseph, so her team up with Cryptic associate director Josh Armstrong is perfect: he has always had a strong lyrical aesthetic to previous work, such as his dance based productions These Delicate Things and The Little Match Girl Passion.
Tonight, Joseph performs material from her captivating second album, From When I Wake The Want Is. But the structure of theatrical song-cycle is at times a little confusing for some of the audience, who uproariously applaud only every other song.
Joseph's extraordinary fluttery voice, set against the metronomic swings, stabs and rolls of her piano, is a mighty instrument indeed. Sometimes, as with the lullaby '^^' she soothes; other times she can sound chilling and atavistic, as a disquieting 'There Is No God But You' attests. And 'Safe' feels almost like a skeletal nursery rhyme. There are rolls of thunder and drones accompanying her, but that voice alone can silence the room. Tears and goosebumps are not uncommon.
James Johnson's simple but effective set design of freestanding mirrors, lit in bold primary colours by Nich Smith, casts Joseph as a kind of character from an Angela Carter novel. Armstrong directs her thus, a defiant heroine, flipping the mirrors over and staring out into the middle distance as though possessed. This Gothic subtext is reinforced by her costume, a brightly coloured rib- cage corset top designed by Marketa Kratochvilova.
Such staging choices are beautifully integrated within the framework of her gorgeous songs, ecstatic incantations full of images of drowning; 'fucking up' each other, witches, blood, hearts, 'tight skin' and survival. Her lyrics teeter between the personal and dreamlike, yet always with a searing sincerity.
There is no one else like Joseph in the contemporary music scene. She is a unique artist whose music continues to casts spells, even to the uninitiated. Tonight, hearts are broken and stolen in equal measure.
Summerhall, Edinburgh, Fri 14 Sep; Tolbooth, Stirling, Sat 15 Sep; Perth Theatre, Mon 17 Sep.