I finally got to see Welsh singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Cate Le Bon after missing her shows that took place earlier this year. I was turned on to Cate by my friend Yasha Goldentyer after he sent me a video link of her doing a fabulous cover of Bill Nelson’s Do You Dream In Colour at one of her recent concerts. I said to myself: Who the hell does covers of Bill Nelson songs? I was instantly hooked. So, I scooped up Le Bon’s six albums and dived into her eclectic and enchanting music. Many have compared her to The Talking Heads, Kate Bush, Faust, and other art ensembles but Le Bon’s music and lyrics are truly her own and very original. Le Bon is not just a musician, she is also an accomplished furniture maker as she learnt to make solid wood tables, stools, and chairs from scratch while making her highly acclaimed 2019 album Reward. Her songs are crafted in a similar manner: a lot of pain-staking intricacy and detail involved in both. In an interview with Pitchfork, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco stated that Le Bon was "one of the best out there making music now."
The show at Union Transfer was part of her ongoing tour to promote her new record Pompeii. Le Bon’s sixth full-length studio album points to apocalypse and the double catastrophes of the global pandemic and the ongoing climate emergency. “What would be your last gesture?” she asks. But just as Vesuvius remains an active volcano, Pompeii reaches past the current crises to tap into what Le Bon calls “an economy of time warp” where life percolates, melts, hardens, and changes, like lava. As she sings in Dirt on the Bed, “Sound doesn’t go away… In habitual silence… It reinvents the surface…Of everything you touch.”
The concert began promptly at 8:00 PM with A. Savage (of Parquet Courts) doing a nice 45-minute solo acoustic guitar set mostly derived from his excellent 2017 album Thawing Dawn. Then Le Bon and her band came on at 9:10 PM and played for about an hour and twenty minutes featuring almost all of Pompeii, seven songs off her fifth album Rewar, as well as two songs from her earlier albums and a new single entitled Typical Love. Highlights for me were the opening song Reward, Moderation, Mother’s Mother’s Magazines, Mug Museum, Home to You and Harbour. The four-piece band that accompanied Le Bon included: Euan Hinshelwood on sax, keyboards and guitar; Toko Yasuda on bass; Dylan Hadley on drums; and Alex Morrison on keyboards and guitar. The band was extremely tight and featured deep and heavy bass playing by Yasuda, rhythmic and hard-hitting drums by the ever-gyrating Hadley, melodic saxophone by Hinshelwood, and soaring keyboards by Morrison. Le Bon played mostly guitar on what looks like one of those crazy Phantom guitars Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones played back in the 60s, only this one was day glow orange. The stage lighting, which enhanced the musical moods of the various songs, featured the same kind of green, purple, red and white colors that adorn the cover of the Pompeii album. The over-flowing Union Transfer Hall audience swooned and swayed to the seventeen songs Le Bon played and they were obviously as enraptured as I was to see her perform live.
Here is my video Le Bon performing Moderation:
You still have a chance to see Cate Le Bon live as she will be playing at Webster Hall in New York City on Saturday, October 8: https://www.bowerypresents.com/shows/detail/443346-cate-le-bon
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