First night: Flowers prove power of boys' own hippie chick flowers leaves the lads sounds

Catatonia

Assembly Rooms

Derby

WITH A bottle of wine in her hand and a withering sneer on her face, Cerys Matthews had the predominantly male crowd screaming her name, bowing in reverence and throwing flowers at her feet.

"How can you listen with all that shouting?" she asked. But they responded by yelling even louder, willing her to tell them off again.

The bottle-blonde singer is the primary force behind and comes equipped with a hefty stage presence.

She has cited Tom Jones and Judy Garland as her musical heroes and sells herself as the laddish hippie chick with an unlimited repertoire of soundbites.

Her trademark Celtic vowel sounds and crackling vocals make the beefy lads in the audience sound positively dulcet, though Matthews showed she can just as easily switch on an unexpectedly angelic voice for the wistful numbers.

In accordance with her voice, she struck a series of poses that veered between clumsy and gracefully balletic.

If Matthews seemed exceptionally relaxed, it was because have finally found success that has eluded them for nearly eight years. Even consistent acclaim in the music press has, until recently, failed to yield chart success. But a pair of winning singles and their Brit-nominated album International Velvet has changed all that.

Last night's crowd chanted flawlessly along with every song.

During the hit single "Mulder and Scully" Matthews asked the crowd to help her along, admitting: "I have problems with the high notes."

But we were not deceived. Despite her throaty, 40-a-day vocals Matthews rose beatifically above each note before demolishing it with larynx- lacerating force.

The prolonged "Eeee" of "Mulder and Scully" was ringing in our ears long after the show had finished. But memories of Matthews' remarkable voice will not quite obliterate the fundamental weaknesses in 's new songs.

Those aired for the first time last night revealed more similar singalong melodies, grinding guitars and a profusion of cultural cliches from karaoke to feng shui.

The new number "Storm The Palace" echoed the insurrectionist sentiments of their earlier song "I Am The Mob" while the maxim "make hay, not war" in "Dead from the Waist Down" smacked of student sloganeering.

Fortunately, Matthews' magnetism outweighs the occasional crassness of 's songs. But with such a combination - to paraphrase the title of their new album - the band will find themselves Equally Cursed and Blessed.

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