Cate Le Bon
- Craig Angus
- 26 August 2019
Peerless performance from the Welsh musician and her quintet of musicians at a scorching Summerhall
Of all the artists nominated for this year's Mercury Prize, it was particularly pleasing to see Cate Le Bon finally in contention. The Welsh musician is in the midst of a purple patch that seemingly can't end, with a run of outstanding albums (the melodic, wonky pop of Mug Museum, the ornate post punk of Crab Day and this year's career peak, Reward), and production work with the likes of Deerhunter, Tim Presley and H. Hawkline to her name.
Tonight's show at Summerhall draws heavily from Reward, with Le Bon and her expertly assembled quintet going straight into that album's opening run. The hypnotic 'Miami', the gorgeous, lovelorn 'Daylight Matters' and 'Home To You', an ode to community in the face of a terrifying world. It's an outlier in Le Bon's back catalogue, scaling back the surrealism it's affecting in a direct, disarming manner.
The expanded line-up is a delight in a live setting, with Reward's meticulous arrangements released perfectly. Euan Hinshelwood of Younghusband is on brass duties for most of the set, adding deep drones and bright grooves, while Stephen Black's bass playing comes to the fore during set highlight 'Magnificent Gestures' when he's all sharp movements and wild-eyed intensity with no loss of precision.
Then there's the bandleader extraordinaire, Le Bon. She says little other than comment on the almost unbearable heat ('Welcome to the sauna', she offers. 'This dress doesn't breathe – Death is imminent) but is a magnetic presence throughout regardless, manically gesturing during the unruly climax of 'The Light' ('you must die a little, you must exercise'), and hitting note perfect falsettos on the closing 'Meet The Man'. Her guitar playing is exceptional, an idiosyncratic style that has serious range, from the intricate workout of 'Wonderful' to the roaring fuzz factory jam that concludes the penultimate 'What's Not Mine'. For many tonight at Summerhall, it'll be the last show they see in Edinburgh this month. There could be no better way to draw things to a close.
Reviewed at Summerhall, Sun 25 Aug.