Catherine McGrath released her debut album “Talk of this Town” in July. It’s a great album, and I reviewed it in an earlier blog. It got to No 13 in the UK pop charts and No 1 in the UK Country charts. She’s now on tour promoting the album, and last night was her London gig, at the Scala in Kings Cross. A venue I really like. Compact you could say, but you get a good view and the atmosphere is always great, in my experience. I went along with my friend Hannah, from work, who shares a love of country music. There aren’t that many people around who do. Catherine McGrath isn’t hard core country. She has some strong pop influences – Taylor Swift is the most obvious – and this is part of her appeal to what is a relatively young audience: mainly twenties, some thirties, and a few oldies like me.
I’ve seen her five times previously, after being so impressed by the first performance I saw, at Latitude in July 2017. Not so long ago, really; and man, she has come on so much since then! She now has a full band, and last night they were really slick and confident. The strength from having an album that they are proud of. So many great tunes: some that rock, a few anthems, some lovely ballads. An hour or so of pure joy. And she was clearly enjoying it so much: pride in her songs, the appreciation of the crowd, who knew so many of the words, an atmosphere of celebration. A real feelgood hour or so.
The new album featured heavily, obviously. The show kicked off with four upbeat numbers, musically. Lyrically, less likely. Catherine’s songs, in true country fashion, are mostly could/should have been me or post break-up, plus a few optimistic/anxious maybe we can make its. The songs were “Good Goodbyes”, “The Edges”, “Lost in the Middle” and “Thought it was Gonna be Me”. Love them all, but “Lost in the Middle” is especially infectious. Escaping into music. Then the first confessional, introducing “Enough for You” – being happy in yourself, not reliant on the approval of others. Another one with a rocking chorus. That was followed by the lovely “Don’t let Me Forget”, which featured a duet with Hunter Hayes on the album. And then an actual duet – with her sister Mary, who’d been the first support act. (We missed her unfortunately). It was a cover of a song by Shania Twain, called “You’re Still the One”. Aaaah, the singing was just beautiful! A talented family.
Time to go upbeat again with “old” favourites “Just in Case” and the big one, “Hell Would Have to Freeze Over”, which didn’t make it onto the album. The excellent “Good at Love”, in between the two, held its own. Another confessional next: “Dodged a Bullet” – all about coming out of a relationship. We were just getting over that one when Catherine started singing Coldplay’s “Fix You”. And so tenderly! After a couple of verses it segued, of course, into “Wild”, which is set in a Coldplay concert. It was one of the songs Catherine played at Latitude. It’s now a massive favourite. Wish it was me, wish it was me! That was the end of the main set.
We had two songs in the encore. A beautiful, simply played “She’ll Never Love You”, with people getting their phone torches out, like the old lighters aloft. An anthem. And then, inevitably, what has become Catherine’s theme tune, “Talk of this Town”. A riposte to her doubters back home in Northern Ireland. And a joyous tune. Loved by the crowd – they took over the chorus at one point. A lovely way to end the show. Defiant, optimistic. As Catherine McGrath should be. She has come a long way over the last year. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of her ascent. She is a star.
We queued up afterwards to say hello to Catherine. And get photos of course! Here’s one of them. I’ve been rather privileged this year: Lindi Ortega, Faye Webster and now Catherine McGrath. All thanks to my friends of course!