Anniversary shows are always going to be a little strange. Dedicating a night to one particular album takes a bit of guts or naivety or blind self-confidence to pull off. You need an album that is somewhat forgotten but is fondly remembered, resonating still with those who loved it once. You need songs that haven’t dated. You need a band on top form, capable of playing the songs as well as they ever could. You need a venue that seems at once intimate and epic, giving the songs the platform they deserve whilst retaining that important connection between artist and audience. David Kitt‘s celebration of his second album, The Big Romance, had all this and more.
For many, The Big Romance is an inescapable classic. Released in 2001, it brought together a singer-songwriter’s intimate, heart-felt lyrics and a will to explore new textures through synthesizers, drum machines, percussion and production. It made for an album that quietly ushered in a new era of experimentation and self-awareness, the benefits of which are to be seen in music all around us today. The atmosphere in Vicar Street is warm and soft, with couples and old friends clutching warm drinks (and each other) while they sing along, each line drifting easily back to the front of their minds before filling the air. It’s striking how many people can recall each song word-for-word, a sure sign of a beloved album.
Kittser himself is on top form all night, flying through the album tracks with genial ease. His voice is richer now than it was ten years ago, and stronger too. Kitt the younger, Robbie, has a lead role providing backing vocals and shimmering keys throughout. The all star backing band bring each song to life; bigger, bolder and deeper than their recorded counterparts, seemingly designed for spaces the size of Vicar St. With members of the Jimmy Cake, Great Lakes Mystery, Sunken Foal, Somadrone, Jape and The Redneck Manifesto, as well as the inimitable Katie Kim, on stage, you’d expect no less. The first half of the show is a song-for-song run through of the album with all its tender moments and extended codas, striking a perfect balance between the passionate and the truly professional.
When the band walk off stage after the final notes of ‘Into The Breeze’ die out, Kitt returns for a couple of solo tracks. His sparse rendition of the classic Thin Lizzy track ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ is just as haunting as ever, providing one of the most moving moments of the evening. One more solo track is played before the band come back out and we’re treated to some newer tracks, including some from his hugely under-rated last album The Nightsaver – a copy of which Kitt encourages the audience to take with them on the way out.
All too soon we’re left with the final song and there could be no better way to finish than turning a raucous version of ‘Headphones’ into an epic krautrock freakout that you never want to hear the back of. It’s a great end to an unusually affecting evening, melodically engaging even at its noisiest. The album proved its lasting merits with ease and the night will hopefully serve as a reminder of one of the country’s finest musical talents. While he may not be making much along the lines of romantic acoustic numbers any more, the same passion and emotive ability is present in Kitt’s newest works. From the beat-driven disco of Spilly Walker to the late night house of New Jackson, Kitt remains unrivalled in his ability to locate stunning melodies in places you’d never expect. While The Big Romance is behind him, his best may be yet to come.
Photos by James Goulden.