Kathryn Joseph @ Summerhall, 6 Aug

Review by Will Fitzpatrick | 10 Aug 2016

Stepping in at the last minute for expected opening act The Anchoress, Siobhan Wilson reveals herself to be a more than capable substitute. Her songs ebb and flow gently on delicate yet deft chords, rarely breaking the softness of the melody except to lend subtle flourishes to her simple tales. She’s a fine lyricist to boot, captivating early revellers with thoughtful reflections on romantic dalliances. 

Occasionally the evident intelligence of her songwriting can feel a tad too knowing, whether switching to French phrases mid-verse or breaking into giggles during a whispered song ending. Still, it’s difficult to argue with the instantly-arresting I’m Gonna Make You Mine and its nods to ‘a DJ playing all the wrong songs to fall in love to’ – neat and beautiful, with heart and wit. What more could you wish for?

Still, it’s a relatively gentle introduction to the show: by contrast, Kathryn Joseph’s triumphant performance is an absolute heart-strangler. “I’m gonna try and not be as weird as I feel,” she says early on, “so sorry already.” It’s as though trying to excuse her presence, which is patently unnecessary – the vibe in the room is one of sheer adoration. Punters stand rapt and occasionally even open-mouthed as her astonishing voice delivers her hymns to tragedy like a blade cutting easily but raggedly through tender flesh. 

See, it’s one thing to hear the likes of The Bird in their skeletal studio forms (stripped down to vocals and piano, with the faintest flashes of additional texture) but quite another to witness them in person. As Joseph’s voice cuts loose from bruised whisper to devastating sweeps of anguish, with Marcus MacKay’s percussive ripples and roars of analog synth amplifying the creeping menace that offsets her naked vulnerability, we’re left wondering what’s still to come from this remarkable songwriter.

Admittedly, 14 months on from her SAY Award victory, there are still no signs of a new LP, but in fairness we’re still mending from the emotional punch of her debut. If tonight is a victory lap for that essential work, it’s one we’re happy to indulge.