The short, solo opening set came from the enigmatically abbreviated D&C aka Dimbleby & Capper aka Laura Bettinson (daylight hours only, one assumes). Elfin petite in black evening gown, star spangled eye allure with keyboard and apple-mac wizardry, she exploited multiple vocal loops and bass bombing beats that snuck up on us like a velvet gloved punch.
Moody electronica, trance synth-copations, with a cappella crescendos and sultry drum machine mantras, she was a dexterous diva of subtle ambience. ‘Structure’ exploited cascading vocal loops set against a minimalist tribal drone bass attack with suggestions of Peggy Lee’s ‘Fever’ and its associated sultry, 60’s smoky chanson FranÃ§aise lounge-jazz cabaret motif. ‘Let You Go’ brooded in a retro time-warp haunted by the ghosts of Mark Almond, Cocteaus and, believe it or not, Phil Spector, which spookily segued in to a disco-beat to die for cover of ‘Then He Kissed Me.’ Closing song was ‘Locoluvva’ (make of it what you will) that consumed itself in a climax of melodramatic grandeur. Utterly sublime. Promoters for those alt/fringe marquees this coming festival season – book her now!
Setlist: KashKau (cash cow), Structure, Lyrebaby, Want This, Let You Go, Then He Kissed Me (cover), Locoluvva.
Last year, seeing Saint Saviour sharing vocals with MC MAD at the 02 Groove Armada gig, I described her as ‘…demurely taming feral beats with vocals recalling Cocteau’s Elizabeth Fraser, Kate Bush, Siouxsie and Lisa Gerrard…one spectacular, enigmatic trance-dance diva, a 21st century uber-vox femme fatale.’ And with tonight’s psyche-scolding headline performance it only goes to reiterate just how right I was and how wrong you were for not being here. Shame on you, Birmingham. Shame. Touring with her debut EP ‘Anatomy’ (which even the security guy bought post gig) we happy few were in for something very special.
In floaty, arabesque, three-quarter length, dress of Cubist shades and silken cute, raven black bobbed coiffeur, Saint Saviour mesmerised the small, but none the less, collective of shrewdly informed, dedicated and soon to be awestruck punters. The re-affirmation of her consummate stage presence, labyrinthine vocal registers and beguiling body sculptured dance images, set now, in the context of her own creative domain, was transfixing.
‘Red Sun Rise’ opened the set with a Japanese homage refrain of glockenspiel tinkles and muted electro-percussion with St Saviour posed motionless holding an open fan. But not for long do we wait for her enrapturing motions to weave their spell as though she were some quasi, ambidextrous Kali enchantress. Her effortless transitions from Kate Bush like falsetto to rib-tingling baritones within a hummingbird’s wing flutter is captivating. The haunting ballad refrain of song 3, ‘Take All (?)’ saw the bassist, move to cello and whose grizzled bowing technique was akin to a sun-drowsed lizard skittering across ancient parchment. Its closure swelled with celestial backing-tracked vocals and grandiose, Baroque splendor. Disparate time signatures, polyphonic vocals, exquisitely tempered musicianship creating timeless audio-scapes of fragile, timbre’d cadence distinguished just some of her remarkable gifts. Forever plucking unexpected treasures of rare delight from an enchanted pool of seemingly depthless imagination, her gravitas is complemented by the beauty of her sinuous expressionism, engaging affability and focused conviction.
So, Birmingham. Next time she’s in town and asks you if music be the food of love, is it an X Factor kebab or a draught from her Circean, chalice?
Setlist and band members not confirmed at time of posting.
Review – John Kennedy
Photos – Ian Dunn