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Cate Le Bon at Village Underground: Live Music Review

The Welsh singer returns to London at the start of a UK tour with a sell-out show on Monday 23rd April 2012 to promote her second album.

Written by Richard Pearmain

Cate Le Bon by Sam Parr
Cate Le Bon by Sam Parr

The seemingly ever present rain was holding off as I made my way up Commercial Street, past the facade of of shiny new shops and crumbling Victorian architecture where the schizophrenic fringe of the East End blurs and the City and Shoreditch collide. I’d just been to an in-store gig by Allo Darlin’ at Rough Trade East and was en route to one of the newer venues on the block (well, in this part of town), Village Underground.

Cate Le Bon By Joseph Joyce
Cate Le Bon by Joseph Joyce

Inhabiting a disused railway arch and adjacent warehouse, and adorned with recycled former Tube carriages, it’s a curious setting. I’d been here once before, for some of last year’s Stag and Dagger festival, but the acoustics in the main hall had proved to be a bit of a let-down. Tonight, though, the main event was occurring in a smaller side arch, a much more intimate setting for the dark riches we were about to enjoy.

Cate le Bon by Gilly Rochester
Cate Le Bon by Gilly Rochester

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A former protégé of Super Furry Animals main man Gruff Rhys, I’d seen Cate Le Bon a couple of times in the past, most recently at last year’s Camden Crawl. I’d been smitten with her debut album, the psych-folk tinged Me Oh My, and she was back braving the elements to launch her follow-up, CYRK.

Cate Le Bon by Avril Kelly
Cate Le Bon by Avril Kelly

Bathed in red light, and with suitably weird images projected on to the wall behind her, Le Bon took to the stage with her band. Dressed in black and with guitar in hand, she kicked off the set with the off-kilter waltz of Julia, which then segued straight into Fold The Cloth. That bewitching, lilting voice juxtaposed with the way she attacked her guitar during solos kind of sums up the music on CYRK – the unexpected is always around the corner. The majority of the set was a run through of the new album, including the chugging Falcon Eyed (imagine if the StrokesLast Nite had been written in Cardiff), the introspective The Man I Wanted and the unsettling Greta (complete with eerie trumpet fade out).

Cate Le Bon by Sarah Jayne
Cate Le Bon by Sarah Jayne Morris

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A couple of older songs popped up as well, with Le Bon moving to keyboards for the woozy riff of Eyes So Bright, before the set closed with CYRK’s own finale, the gentle first part of Ploughing Out building to a full on freak out that raised the hairs on the back of the neck. The cheers of the crowd brought on the encore, before which an apparently ill Le Bon wryly remarked that she’d managed to get through the set without being sick. She then took up the keyboards for Camelo, backed only by a disconcerting animation on the wall behind her, before the rest of the band came out for a romp through Ole Spain, a cover of über-obscure (even by my standards!) early 80s New Wave band Hamsters.

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With CYRK hitting the shops, and a short European tour supporting Perfume Genius in a couple of weeks, now’s the ideal time to get to know this beguiling talent.


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