The Deaf Institute, Manchester – 08/03/2010
by Ellie O’Neill
Meeting your heroes can be a truly terrible experience or one of the happiest moments of your life. When we meet our heroes we do not expect to be disappointed, so when they turn out to be a big fat lecherous let down it can be quite a blow (is there something you’d like to share with us, Ellie? – Ed).
Though Cate Le Bon is not a hero, she is currently being praised as a fantastic folk singer, specialising in soul soaring songs. Perhaps this is why the performance she gives at The Deaf Institute is so upsetting for the audience who have dragged themselves out on a Monday night, parting with nearly ten pounds for the pleasure of seeing her behave like an angst ridden, slightly pissed adolescent.
She follows the deeply set footsteps of masters of crowd pleasing and teasing; the kings of dangerous dad dancing, Lawrence Arabia. At first, their sound seems a bit too large for the venue, but the soundman sorts it in no time and soon we can hear their lyrics about apple pie beds and dream teachers crystal clear, even if we are not sure what they mean.
LA demand attention from the audience, and from the response they receive, anyone walking into the sumptuous velvet venue, with its cool smoking area which makes non-smokers wish they’d never quit would think they were the main act. After insisting we move forward and trying out their new name on us, “Lawrence Arabia And The Bisexuals” they launch into ‘The Beatiful Young Crew’. With lyrics like “We love each other/We hate each other/We’re afraid of each other/Because we want to screw each other”, the track gets a great reception.
Prior to this, the opening act is Kathryn Edwards, who sings with only a cellist for company. It is a shame she struggles to engage those in attendance, as her songs would be better received had she just made more eye contact. Her music is akin to Aimee Mann, and though her voice is as wholesome as the cast of Dawson’s Creek, some of her lyrics are dark and definitely worth a second listen.
Before Cate Le Bon arrives we are treated to a painful sound check where organ notes screech into the PA. It takes so long to get started the magic of the previous acts is broken and people have begun to talk. As she opens the set without bothering to introduce herself or apologise for all the tomfoolery, she seems a little confused at people continuing their conversation, but her stage presence is poor, and though she sings a good song she struggles to bring the throng along.
The whole performance is painful, so the gritty details will be spared, but a few things must be said. For some strange reason, the band spend most of their time facing the back or looking at something fascinating on the floor; there were far too many tune-ups, and at one stage one of them went off mid set to get more alcohol. It wasn’t rock and roll, it just came across as rude.
Though some songs are met with appreciation, the overall impression is of someone who doesn’t want to be here. She swears and spends most of her time flopping her fringe about in an irritating manner which you can only assume is a base attempt to imitate Beach House’s Victoria Legrand. Some people are singers and not performers but when a singer makes this little effort it is hard to swallow.
She ends nearly every track with a keyboard mash which sounds about as good as it did when you did it yourself when you were three. The audience do not call for an encore but she returns to the stage regardless, perhaps interpreting the subdued silence as an audience in awe.
If you do not want to watch a hero fall, stick to listening to Cate on CD, it will be far less painful than watching her perform.