Kathryn Williams & Neill Maccoll, Komedia, Brighton
Tuesday 18 March 2008
The first time Mercury nominee Kathryn Williams and guitarist and producer Neill MacColl met, in 2005, she sang a Vashti Bunyan song and cracked a dreadful joke. The second time, the following year, they performed "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", the standard forever associated with MacColl's parents, folk singers Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. The third time, Williams and MacColl wrote 22 songs together in a week, half of which form the duo's wonderfully delicate album, Two.
On the opening night of their British tour, the two singers show that their partnership is still growing and developing beyond expectations. They feel their way in with the vignette-like "All" and the gentle melody of "Weather Forever", before revisiting "Stood" from Little Black Numbers.
A venue such as the Komedia in Brighton fits Williams and MacColl to a tee as she thanks the fans who brought her a raspberry cake. Motherhood helped Williams conquer her stage fright and she makes fun of her sidekick's muso tendencies and tells an unrepeatable onanist joke. The self- effacing MacColl proves he can be a fine singer with a cover of Tom Waits's "Innocent When You Dream".
Just when things are about to get too coffee-table cosy, Williams subtly alters the blissful mood of "Blue Fields" by mentioning "selfish people", swears during "Armchair", and switches point of view in the pointillist "Frame". She is a painter, too – "a bad one," she claims – and she's forever adding little touches of colour with MacColl's arpeggios providing light and shade. But it's the unsettling, confessional "Grey Goes" that really proves the centrepiece when Williams loops her vocal lines again and again like an air-traffic controller stacking planes. She tops it all by getting a bow out and using it to play her acoustic guitar. Eat your heart out, Jimmy Page.
"Come with Me" is more what you'd expect from Williams but only happened because MacColl encouraged her to persevere and actually dare to use the word "darling". Their telepathic understanding and vocal blend are breathtaking. They draw the best out of each other and end with the exquisitely detailed "Holes in Your Life". Williams delivers deep, cutting insights with an occasional giggle. As her voice soars and roars at the end of an arresting version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", the hushed reverence is palpable.
Touring to 19 April ( www.williamsmaccoll.com)
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
- 2 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 3 UK's biggest male rape charity Survivors UK has state funding slashed to zero despite 120% rise in men reporting sexual violence and seeking help
- 4 'Don't blame all men for rape' campaign backfires spectacularly
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Grace of Monaco film panned: Screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman as movie gets US debut
Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi's sex life
Suicide Squad: leaked footage shows first look at Batmobile chasing Joker through city streets
ASAP Rocky sparks outrage with misogynistic lyrics about Rita Ora in new song 'Better Things'
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'