CMAT @ Barrowlands, Glasgow, 24 Nov

Through her perfect blending of melodrama, heart, thrills and unadulterated joy, CMAT proves herself as a force to be reckoned with

Live Review by Mia Boffey | 28 Nov 2023

The excitement rippling through the crowd is almost palpable as the darkness of the room is cut by the flickering of a glowing neon sign. It might echo the iconic one that all present have crossed under as they enter the venue, but this one, hung against a ruched velvet backdrop, reads CMAT. It's a stage setup reminiscent somehow of the Moulin Rouge, with a gilded mirror set atop a lit-up staircase in the centre of the stage, and one that perfectly benefits the campy persona of Dublin’s red-haired rodeo queen, Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson, better known as CMAT.  

Bounding onto the stage to riotous applause in chunky boots, sequined shorts and a tartan jacket, she opens the night’s set with the amusingly titled I... Hate Who I Am When I’m Horny from brand new album Crazymad, For Me. CMAT seems completely at home on stage, asserting between songs her love for the “greatest venue in the fucking world” and bantering with her adoring audience. When she reaches older track Peter Bogdanovich, a bra is thrown onstage which she promptly, with a look of glee, swings above her head in time with the song (something she does again later in the set during a rendition of Caledonia – a fitting, and characteristically camp tribute to the electric energy in the room that she describes as “Glaswegian spirit”).

CMAT on stage, standing next to a red neon spelling out her name.
Image: CMAT @ Barrowlands, Glasgow, 24 Nov by Serena Milesi

The energy levels do not falter throughout the performance and nor does her powerful voice. The pain woven into the lyrics of songs such as Have Fun! and Rent is transmuted into a compellingly cathartic performance, a rising from the ash with her red hair, that the crowd are both privy to and partaking in as they belt along, seeming to know every word.

“Everything amazing must come to an end”, she muses with a sparkling grin, and, come to an end her set does, with I Wanna be a Cowboy, Baby!, followed by a soaring final encore of Stay For Something, the penultimate forceful yet forgiving breakup song from her latest album. The neon letters of her acronymous moniker are illuminated finally in an Irish tricolour before fizzling out. It has been a powerhouse of a performance, and through her perfect blending of melodrama, heart, thrills and unadulterated joy CMAT has demonstrated herself as a force to be reckoned with.