Vaults, London – until 29 January 2017
by guest critic Martin Pettitt
After enduring the disorganisation of the first night of Vault Festival, entering the performance space is an instant antidote. Through hallways of cluttered objects and draped fabrics, we are guided by the music into a cavernous, atmospheric space arranged with a hotchpotch of tables and chairs and twinkling decorations. This physical preamble is wonderfully relevant to the down-the-rabbit-hole story we are treated to.
Cat Loud enters rather awkwardly down stairs from behind the audience, exclaiming nervously, ‘oh, it’s starting’ before bemoaning her choice of footwear. These moments of informal monologue continue throughout the show and although undoubtedly entertaining it is unclear whether this is by accident or by design. There are several times the story is interrupted by a remark which brings us out of the magic of the tale, causing a lull in the mood. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
That is not to take away from the charm and talent exuding from this show as a whole. It’s a cleverly plotted mix of songs and storytelling; it is performed with such skill I now want to see every concert I go to set into a cogent narrative. It gives a whole new dimension to proceedings and lets the songs take on a new life. Cat’s singing is spectacular, effortless and moving and a great contrast to the more whimsical elements of her personality. The arrangements of the songs is brilliant, showing a great understanding of musical phrasing and its use for affecting the audience, as well as providing a fresh look at pop songs and old classics alike.
This brings things nicely to Cat’s ability to work the audience. She always has her eye on the crowd, reacting to every slight nuance of a reaction. She reads the responses and replies expertly, giving a personal feeling to the show. The only issue on this night is the timidity of the audience – whether it is the hoo-ha with getting into the venue or the low temperature in the performance space, they seem to be reticent to fully embrace the energy of the performance. Despite all the great efforts of the performer, it doesn’t feel like a full victory.
Overall this show is thoroughly enjoyable, the elements work flawlessly together – the singing, the storytelling, the music and the humour, all delivered with charisma and great energy. Cat Loud definitely deserves a bigger (and warmer) stage.