It’s packed, and baking hot, in the tiny room of the private members club Blacks, in Soho. There are rumours that 60 people are due to come tonight. We don't think that’s the final number, but it’s definitely a squeeze.
Yet despite the numbers, you could hear a pin drop throughout the three sets - stripped-down, acoustic and pretty magical for everyone.
Kathryn Williams leads the night with her beautiful blend of subtle folk, joined by one, sometimes two, other guitarists. Her voice is so effortless and so recognisable. With a new album out this year, her 10th, she could have used this night to showcase new material. But with so many adoring eyes staring at her, she chooses to play some of the greatest numbers from her back catalogue: ‘Come With Me’, ‘Little Black Numbers’ using a loop pedal, ‘Armchair’, and a belted-out and an amazing ‘Grey Goes’.
Her new songs are just as wonderful, with ‘Tequila’ verging on a French '60s pop sound - an English Marie Laforêt - and ‘Heart Shaped Stone’ already sounding like a Williams classic.
Even the "cock in a sandal" story doesn't detract from how sweet the evening is: she's got a voice like honey and songs as pretty as roses.
But Williams isn’t the only treat. Nick Mulvey, former hang player from the Mercury Prize-nominated Portico Quartet, almost steals the show with his brilliant solo songs. The percussion has been swapped for guitar and it’s amazing to think this wasn’t his main instrument in his old band.
His playing is superb, South American-inspired and energetic. It's chord, note and beat all in one, played with perfection at a sometimes lightning speed.
Mulvey’s songs are just as inspiring: a mix of urban folk, Americana and Latino, reverb sometimes tricking you into thinking there’s two or even three guitars at play.
‘Fever To The Form’, the title-track from his upcoming EP, is excellent, but it’s end track ‘Lonely Moon’ that leaves everyone breathless – a melancholy tune that bursts into a Spanish-inspired eruption at its climax. He’s playing all over the UK in June and supports some of his finest peers, including Lianne La Havas, Laura Mvula and Willy Mason, so make sure you catch him soon.
The night also features a turn from the wonderful Raevennan Husbandes, who kicks off the evening with a Kathryn Williams duet.
Her songs are silky and soulful, with notes cascading to unexpected places, giving ears some welcome surprises. She’s really interesting to listen to, and it’s amazing to hear that she's reached this point having not so long ago been struck down by Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome, which temporarily left her deaf and blind. She also has an EP due out this summer.
Tonight is full of immense talents, and is made all the more special with its intimate setting. These invite-only gigs are becoming more popular, and The Society is surely soon to be inundated with requests. This crowd is definitely sold.
Words: Gemma Hampson
Photo: Brad Inglis
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