A solo piano show by innately oddball singer/songwriter Cate Le Bon might not be top of most folks’ back-to-work-blues-banishing activities but there are few of her peers who could offer such a refreshing dose of originality to usher in the new year as this wondrous Welsh chanteuse.
Cate le Bon, St Luke’s, Glasgow ****
Le Bon (no relation to Simon, in blood nor artistry) is more usually seen fronting an electric band of fellow travellers but on this low(er)-key outing had opted to debut a batch of unknown songs from an album to be released later in the spring, which was written on piano when she was living a solitary existence in the Lake District.
With her customary deadpan charm, she claimed her circumstances infused the material with “an edge of lunacy”.
If so, it was an exquisitely marshalled lunacy delivered with vocal purity and droll intrigue over delicate but dynamic chords, punctuated with the occasional wordless whoop.
Exposed without her band, she admitted, “I get so nervous, it’s like free drugs”. Yet the nerves did not show.
There was an assurance even in the vulnerability of the songs. And besides, she was not actually alone, having persuaded her frequent collaborator and right hand man, Stephen Black, aka Sweet Baboo, along for the ride to accompany her on a variety of woodwind.
Black’s contribution was subtle but key, adding colour, personality and playfulness across the tonal spectrum, from cheeky bassy skronk to a melancholic keening tenor, enhancing I Just Wanna Be Good with sparing clarinet and firing a curt volley of squawking sax over What’s Not Mine, a warmly received favourite from Le Bon’s most recent album Crab Day. The haunting I Think I Knew, originally a vocal duet with Perfume Genius, became a duet with oboe.
As well as scattering her set with more familiar material of her own, she rounded off with a couple of judiciously chosen covers.
Her faithful rendition of Paul McCartney’s Waterfalls was the perfect partner to her new songs, slotting immaculately into the overall offbeat tone.
But Le Bon had even more fun with a swinging encore, during which she ceded bluesy piano duties to Rob Jones in order to get down to her earthy version of lo-fi cult hero R. Stevie Moore’s Don’t Let Me Go To The Dogs. - Fiona Shepherd