2010 has been quite the year for Cathy Davey thus far. Her critically acclaimed third album The Nameless went straight to the top of the Irish charts upon its release in May, ‘Little Red’ became a firm fixture on the Irish airwaves, and a successful tour has seen her perform to over 50,000 fans – including packed-to-the-rafters sets at both Oxegen AND Electric Picnic.
Although The Nameless is widely considered to be Davey’s finest album to date, interestingly she begins the show tonight with no less than four tracks in a row from its predecessor, Tales of Silversleeve. A vibrant performance of ‘Reuben’ is an early highlight, and leads into a rocked-up rendition of ‘Little Red’ – for which Davey ditches the song’s trademark mandolin lead in favour of that of a guitar. It goes down well with the Academy crowd – an interesting twist on what has been her most popular single release to date, and a perfect example of how she is unafraid to break from the norm on stage.
As she tunes up her acoustic guitar, she remarks that “this is my favourite gig on this tour to date… so I really hope I don’t mess it up now!” But she needn’t have worried, for the stripped-down versions of ‘End of the End’ and ‘Lay Your Hand’ which follow have the audience spellbound. There’s little time to dwell on the ballads however, as the eerie brilliance of The Nameless’ title track is unleashed against the backdrop of a perfectly matched lighting display.
The seamless manner in which Cathy Davey can switch between instruments never ceases to impress – guitar, mandolin, and banjo are firm fixtures, as well as the array of hand-percussion instruments she incorporates into her performances. But it’s when she has nothing but a microphone in her hand that Davey’s main asset comes to the fore – her rendition of the epic ‘Rubbish Ocean’ is quite simply stunning, the song’s soaring refrains allowing what is one of the most distinctive voices in Irish music to be set totally free.
An almost militant rendition of ‘Army of Tears’ is the undeniable highlight of the evening – the passionate conviction of the song is portrayed perfectly, not just by Davey herself but by the entire band. From then on it’s plain sailing with the usual fan-favourites to close out the show – ‘Moving’ and ‘Sing For Your Supper’, absolute staples of any Cathy Davey gig, garner the biggest cheers of the evening and even cajole the very civilised audience into having a little bit of a dance.
Cathy Davey’s confidence continues to go from strength to strength which each tour she embarks on. She may not be the most overtly charismatic performer, with little more to say on stage than “hello”, “goodbye”, and a few polite “thank yous” between songs – but, she exudes an endearing modesty which makes her unique in her own right. Cathy Davey lets her music do the talking – and if she continues performing to the standard of tonight’s show, there’ll be no shortage of people eager to listen.
Photos by Alessio Michelini.