December 11, 2017
St Pancras Old Church, London
“I don’t want to out-Christmas Sarah, she’s the queen!”
Those on the front row at St. Pancras Old Church grinned when they heard Kaity Rae was playing (as a last minute replacement for Ark who had been taken ill). They seemed impressed with her moxie: “she gets every support slot going!” That’s either not true (sadly), or the crowd further back in the church were not live music regulars, because Rae was clearly new to the majority. She stepped up with quiet confidence and launched straight in to Somebody Else’s Problem, introducing the uninitiated to her catchy hooks and sass.
Spare Room, written with Jessica Sharman, was quiet and tender, followed by Second Time written with her ex university lecture, Sophie Daniels. Fitting for two trained songwriters, it had an interesting melody line and showcased Rae’s John Mayer-like ability to convey sensitivity through her vocals.
Rae took the opportunity to play brand new songs, including Entitled about “guys thinking that I owe them something.” It had all the signature elements of a classic Kaity Rae song: a pleasing head voice, held notes and fast wordplay. Expect to hear more of this in 2018.
Find out more about Kaity Rae, and keep an eye out for tour dates, at kaityrae.com
“You do Christmas very well here”
After praising Kaity Rae as an “emerging talent,” Sarah Darling launched into a set of Christmas classics and originals from her recently released Christmas album, Winter Wonderland, as well as fan favourites from her back catalogue.
Giving a sneak peek into festive favourites back home in Iowa, she led with flawless renditions of Santa Baby, White Christmas and Nat King Cole’s Merry Christmas. The latter was souped up with a double bass and fiddle, while Winter Wonderland was given a “tropical meets Christmas vibe” with jingle bells, of course!
Interestingly, there was also space for a less upbeat, less traditional Christmas song – Joni Mitchell’s plaintive River. Darling’s vocals had an exquisitely pure tone reminiscent of Jewel, or Sarah McLachlan who had also covered the song.
New track Shimmer Like Gold had a nice double bass part and an added bonus. The two little girls who had watched Rae’s set enthralled jumped up to dance along the front row, and kept that up for most of the set.
As well as sharing the appreciation of the children, Rae and Darling shared a writing partner, Jess Sharman. Sharman and Darling’s song Diamonds is in contention to be a single, but the slight edge must go to Wasted. It depicts a crumbling marriage, with the heartbreaking lyric “you can’t hold your whiskey and hold me too.”
The stories of the songs had a poetry of their own. Darling explained that she wrote Halley’s Comet “on one of the darkest days of my life and it’s brought so much light to people.” Where Cowboys Ride – the favourite of the jumping, dancing children – was a “love letter to Wyoming,” while Montmartre recalled how she “fell in love on the cobblestone streets” of Paris.
Somehow, the best was left ’til last. Darling stepped away from the band and the microphone for a stunning a cappella version of Silent Night.
As the glittering “country jazz” Christmas show came to an end, the queue to meet her stretched the entire length of the church. She waited in the cold until every last person had their chance for a festive greeting and a photo. Judging from the numbers saying they already have tickets to Darling’s show at London’s Union Chapel on March 5, you’d better get buying yours soon!
Darling’s festive album, Winter Wonderland, is out now. Head over to sarahdarling.com/darling-1 to buy it and to find out more about her Union Chapel show.
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