Kathryn Joseph @ Edinburgh Park, EIF, 8 Aug

Dreich Edinburgh weather and Kathryn Joseph's haunting music perfectly collide for an unforgettable evening in the International Festival's purpose-built outdoor venue at Edinburgh Park

Live Review by Tallah Brash | 09 Aug 2021

The weather can dictate the way we feel, what we want to eat, how we dress, what we want to do with our day and how we want it soundtracked. It's a powerful force, affecting our actions perhaps more than we realise. The past 17 months have encouraged us to ditch our sensible decision-making brains, opting instead to brave the chilliest snowfall and the heaviest of rains just to spend time with friends and family, so the threat of today's thunderstorms wasn’t going to put us off from attending our first gig since March 2020, the grey of Edinburgh’s paving slabs turning a shade of swampy murk as we run for the number 2 bus.

Planning a three week-long schedule of outdoor events is a risk at the best of times, and with the unpredictability of Edinburgh’s regular 'four seasons in one day' climate, the thought would usually be laughed out of the boardroom. But at the time of planning, circumstances dictated this to be the only viable option for the Edinburgh International Festival to make a safe return this year, and so we couldn't be happier with tonight's resulting dreichness serendipitously aligning with Kathryn Joseph’s appearance at EIF’s purpose-built Edinburgh Park location.

Opening with the title track from her 2018 album, From When I Wake The Want Is, the drizzle dancing around the edges of the outdoor pavilion we're in is the most perfect backdrop, making for a wholly overwhelming moment, music and weather colliding so exquisitely it's hard to put into words. The fact it’s the first gig back for many in attendance just adds to the mood which hangs heavy in the air like a tear duct on the verge of bursting. The first round of applause, cheers and whoops that soar around the enormous polytunnel hit hard.

The significance of tonight’s show doesn’t go unacknowledged by the charming-as-ever Joseph who, although regularly self-deprecating, is funny, humble, foul-mouthed and thankful throughout. She explains how hard it’s been since the pandemic hit to not be able to do the thing you love the most for so long, admitting she wished she’d started creating music a lot sooner in life: “I shouldn’t have been a paranoid fuck for 40 years,” she quips.

The complementary nature of tonight's miserable weather with her haunting piano-led masterpieces also doesn’t go unnoticed by Joseph, as she jokes that the sound of rain will now always have to feature in her recordings. With the rain at its heaviest, she launches into penultimate track, The Bird, from her SAY Award-winning album, Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled, and we find ourselves lost in the moment, leaning back in our chair, eyes shut, fully immersed.

“I want to kiss you, I’m not even allowed to hug you, I want to snog you all, thank you,” Joseph says, offering her heartfelt thanks to everyone in the room before launching into her final song of the night. Met with a rapturous round of applause, a tremor of foot stomping works its way around the pavilion's wooden floorboards and it feels good to be back, come rain or shine.

Image: Kathryn Joseph by Jess Shurte

A bit of EIF housekeeping for those unsure of what to expect this month. The pavilion at Edinburgh Park is absolutely massive, and is open most of the way round, meaning it is an incredibly well-ventilated space. It does mean it can get a bit chilly, so pack a jumper, hat and scarf just in case. There are toilets in portakabins at the rear of the venue, with both gender neutral and wheelchair accessible options.

There is a bar run by SIPS Events which is an all at-seat service, with ordering and payments via QR code – you can order drinks throughout the performance, so expect a bit of rattling of the floorboards throughout. Seating within the pavilion is all socially-distanced with two metres between each bubble booking. EIF aren't asking audience members for proof of vaccination status or proof of a negative COVID test for entry, but do a test if you can and if you have any symptoms stay at home.

EIF takes place at various locations around the city until Sunday 29 Aug