Kathleen Edwards + Peter Bruntnell @ Bush Hall, London – 6th December 2012

Canadian singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards has slowly but surely been building a reputation as one of the most consistently impressive artists of the past decade, helped along nicely by last year’s Bon Iver-produced Voyageur album, and she’s over on our shores for three stripped back shows, concluding with an appearance at All Tomorrow’s Parties, curated by The National.

Tonight is the first of two gigs at London’s Bush Hall, a gorgeous venue complete with chandeliers and a sparsely decorated Christmas tree, and it’s a room well suited to her sound. Tonight she plays without drummer or bassist and, as a result, some of the more rocky numbers don’t have quite the kick they usually do.

Before all that though, we’re treated to a low-key set by one of Kathleen’s influences, Peter Bruntnell. Rolling stone mag called him “One of England’s best kept musical secrets” and tonight his brand of acoustic alt-country seems to go over well with the seated audience. He relates stories with the crowd between songs and is encourage (read bullied) into playing an extra song at the end by Kathleen herself. A great start.

With her 4th album recently being voted best Canadian album of 2012 by Pop Matters, this year has been a busy year for Miss Edwards. Indeed, it’s been a year of highs & lows, but has resulted in her fan base growing massively thanks to her most successful album to date. She opens the show tonight with the album’s first song, Empty Threat, and from there on in this is a night packed full of beautifully written songs, spanning her entire career.

Highlights include a heartfelt rendition of A Soft Place To Land, a stripped back Hockey Skates and the song Spin Magazine voted number 20 in its list of the top songs of 2012, a soaring Change The Sheets. She’s accompanied tonight by long-time cohorts Gord Tough and Jim Bryson, who do their best to fill out the sound but there are occasions where the lack of drums and bass does leave the songs wanting for more.

Edwards asks if anyone has been brought along tonight, not knowing who she is, before dedicating a superb cover of Nirvana’s All Apologies to the one girl who is a newcomer to her music. Tonight’s crowd includes many of her biggest fans, including some who have travelled from Sweden just for tonight’s gig! The reaction at the end of each song seems to take the singer aback somewhat but it’s absolutely deserved. Edwards’ voice is packed full of emotion on every song, and a rare outing for Sweet Little Duck could bring a tear to the eye of toughest person in the room.

Still very much underrated, Kathleen Edwards is finally beginning to get some recognition after a decade of great music. Tonight’s gig was a perfect showcase for those songs and a great talent.

Review & photos – Steve Gerrard

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