Endearing pop-eccentric, Cate Le Bon, plays Bristol’s Colston Hall during her European tour of Crab Day, her most left-field release to date.
Cate Le Bon, hailing from Penboyr, Wales, came into the public realm when she supported Gruff Rhys of Super Fury Animals back in 2007. Since 2008 she’s been making records, both in Welsh and English, with songs rooted in folk melody, only shaken up with pop sensibility and kooky idiosyncrasies. This year we saw her second release since living in Los Angeles, entitled Crab Day, and Le Bon is now in the middle of a European summer tour to promote the record. Colston Hall’s middle-sized room, The Lantern, hosted the songstress and her band, along with fellow Welshman Alex Dingley.
I was at first surprised to see a lack of young people at the show, but the event was popular with many middle-aged folk and full of enthusiastic fans. Since Le Bon’s last visit, 2013’s Mug Museum had time to spread its effect on new listeners (myself included). It was a unique creation and a shining addition to 4-piece indie pop at the time.
Alex Dingley, also hailing from Carmarthenshire, opened the evening. Typically, when I don’t know the support act, I presume that their sound is going to have some connection with the headliner. It could be slight, or even distorted, but sonically you still hear that family feeling. I failed to see that link between Dingley and Cate Le Bon, or perhaps it was one I was yet to make. Dingley, leading the songs with three other members, produced soft, ballad-like pop songs with his acoustic and piano. They were melodic and revealed Dingley’s fondness of the lyrical craft, but I found their progression to be only half-formed. Instead of being a collective collaboration toward new music, it was the very honest songwriting of one individual with added instrumentation. Perhaps the band could have benefited by having the box slightly opened.
Le Bon and her band appeared on stage to rapturous enthusiasm from the crowd. United by black stripes under their eyes, they all wore dark colors which were complemented by The Lantern’s mood lighting. They opened with a pair of new tracks from Crab Day, which were definitely jumpier and scattier than her previous batch, and set more in the experimental-psych realm than nostalgic-folk. Their structure has been been cut up further, revealing Le Bon’s desire to push the element of oddity in her music more into the forefront. Elements of a Dadaist lyrical scheme have been used to make sense of the world around her. Included within Crab Day are some slower, groovier jams that brought to mind earlier Nico & Velvet Underground, but sounding completely fresh and reborn. This added variation to the sometimes tedious and nondescript elements of certain tracks.
New track Wonderful was met with bopping and elated heads, and so too were older favourites No God, Are You With Me Now?, and I Can’t Help You. Le Bon sounded at home within these songs, which were comparatively folkier and with softer sentiment. The band were tight throughout the entire performance and established a eclectic groove, only to be sworn back on stage after an extended departure. “I was halfway home,” Cate replied, “Pete was in his pyjamas”. They seemed happy to perform one more track and genuinely chuffed with the positive reception they had been given.