Kathleen Edwards, 02 Islington Academy, London


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The Independent Culture

This Canadian songstress had existed with moderate success on the fringes of the Americana scene for nearly a decade. But last year a rather explosive episode in her private life took the, normally emotionally-charged, singer’s approach to another level and thrust her into the arms - both professionally and personally - of Justin Vernon, the front man of Bon Iver.

Edwards has said in interviews that, after divorcing her husband and former collaborator Colin Cripps in 2011, she entered a period of newfound creative freedom. And with Vernon on the case as producer of her latest (and fourth) studio album, Voyageur, the result has been a distinct upping of her game. In London last night Edwards appeared to be fully in command of a set of songs that brought her to tears at one point, had her howling like a wolf at another and dancing like a rock star throughout.

She kicked things off with 'Empty Threat', taking us through the best part of Voyageur, the crowd particularly responding to 'Pink Champagne', 'Chameleon' and 'Sidecar'. The tears came nine songs in when, left alone on the stage by her band, Edwards picked up an acoustic guitar and sang 'House Full of Empty Rooms', her eyes streaming. The waterworks began when she introduced the number, explaining: “This is a song I wrote a long, long time before I made the record. I thought at the time it was about someone else, but it was actually about me.” Singing of a lover who no longer looks at his girl the way he once did, the track could well become a universal break-up backdrop.

Alone with her guitar Edwards is reminiscent of Gillian Welch. But there is something in the raw quality of Edwards’ delivery that sets her apart. She becomes visibly consumed by what she is singing, screwing up her eyes, practically chewing off the mic and swaying like a teenager dancing alone in her room. In contrast, when the band is there, pressing heavily on the synth pedals, guitars growling, some loud drums and a keyboard, there is something quite Fleetwood Mac meets Sheryl Crow about the result.

Finishing with the highly anticipated 'Change The Sheets' (in my opinion her best song) and a couple of her older tunes, the screams and applause rang out. I suspect this won’t be a short-lived break into the mainstream.