It’s been 18 months since Cathy Davey has graced a Dublin venue with her presence, and tonight marks the beginning of a three date residency at Whelan’s. One of the forthcoming shows is to be a reprise of Davey’s 2008 Fringe Festival show Songs That Scare Children, the other a celebration of her favourite artists of decades gone by – but tonight’s show is all about the woman herself, delving into her back catalogue to perform the best of her own material albums to date.
It’s a shaky start with ‘Habit’ and ‘Reuben’, the band hit the ground running but Davey’s vocals aren’t exactly pitch perfect. “It’s great to be back!” she announces following the latter, before launching into a brilliant rendition of ‘Dog’ – and after the false beginning it’s all of sudden crystal clear just why Whelan’s is filled to its absolute max tonight. Behind the banjo lies a seemingly new Cathy Davey – the quality of performance remains top notch, but there’s an extra spark – she just seems a whole lot more comfortable in her own live presence than ever before. She announces that she has dressed for comfort – “I’m wearing a top that I normally sleep in!” – and sure enough following the lively delivery of ‘No Heart Today’ and a declaration that the nerves are gone it’s plain sailing for Davey & band. ‘Little Red’, Davey’s biggest hit to date, is unleashed mid-set, much to delight of the audience who try their best (and fail miserably) to hit that falsetto chorus note along with her.
Subsequently, there’s a surprise in store: “So, I’ve decided I don’t hate my first album as much as I used to…” Surely it can’t be? Is she actually going to acknowledge the existence of her 2004 debut album Something Ilk?! Amidst the confused murmurings around the venue, Davey launches into the duo of ‘Holy Moly’ and ‘Hammerhead’, two of the album’s standout tracks. ‘Clean & Neat’ too follows later on in the set. Although Davey has publicly stated her unhappiness with the overbearing influences which led her to releasing a debut she was dissatisfied with, it’s great to hear the old songs performed with her evolved vocal and musical style, and really it’s a shame that she has largely ignored them in her setlists to date.
The mood is slowed down with most recent single, the beautiful ‘Bad Weather’ – Davey tactfully pleads for a bit of hush for its duration, but she needn’t have worried – it’s too captivating a performance for audience chatter, and the song’s exquisite climax is all the more enthralling with a full live band. A sneak-peak of what’s in store for the forthcoming shows of the residency comes with a cover of Billie Holiday’s ‘Gloomy Sunday’, which will feature in both – a strong advertisement. The rare treat of Tales of Silversleeve album track ‘Rubbish Ocean’ is followed up with a suitably dramatic performance of the almost militant ‘Army of Tears’, before a sexed-up version of ‘Mr. Kill’ and ‘Sing For Your Supper’ close out the main set with a bang. “Thanks for making my comeback so enjoyable – it’s been very nice”, says Davey, and with that all that’s left to do is close out the evening with the dance-along grooves of ‘Moving’. Very nice indeed. Welcome back, Ms. Davey – and thanks for bring Something Ilk along for the occasion.
Photos: Damien McGlynn.