Welsh singer and songstress Cate Le Bon played two consecutive sold-out shows at the Bowery Ballroom, and I caught her first sublimely bewitching night in NYC. Cate Timothy started singing in her native Welsh tongue early in her career, but she began performing more and more in English, especially after she moved her base of operations to LA, but her otherworldly sense of exotic harmonies and extraterritorial creativity endures in even our language. She has released five studio albums, as well as many EPs and singles, and appeared with many other artists like St. Vincent, Kevin Morby, Tim Presley, John Cale, Deerhunter, and many more, as well as gaining an extremely devoted fan base, but with her new album Pompeii, she seems to finally getting some wider respect and justly deserved praise for her wonderfully absurdist musical style.
Opening the show was Mega Bog, which is the moniker of the experimental chanteuse Erin Birgy, who also has a taste for freaky and eccentric musical sensibilities. She likes to sing from the perspective of outsider narrators like animals and aliens, and she will often drift into improvisational territory before warping into love song territory. Erin can at times get funky and poppy and sometimes she sings like she’s fronting a French burlesque show, but she also often revels in shades of folk, jazz and chamber pop as well. Her music sends me to a space somewhere between Kate Bush, Tune-Yards, and Edith Piaf. She has released several albums now, and Life, and Another from last year has become a music revelation to me, as it displayed a childlike wonder that I feel is often lost in modern contemporary music. She played a stripped down set, with only one guy playing keyboards on the floor, as she played the rest of the instrumentation herself, but she often plays with a much bigger band, something she openly lamented as she had trouble with her little drum machines and their generic bossa nova beats, but I found her sound to still be incredibly lush and angelically harmonic. At one point, she said facetiously, “I don’t know if you guys like my music, most of you probably don’t. I guess we’re not made for the masses.” It was a joke, but it is true that her music is something so deeply personal and unique that most people probably won’t “get it,” but once you do catch her feverous call, you’ll get hooked into her wild world, and you won’t let go.
Cate Le Bon played with a much larger accompaniment, and I couldn’t help but be awed and the lavishly constructed soundscape they produced. She also displayed a fiercely unique zeal for freaky psychedelic pop, and would often take turns into absurdity and improv before returning to Earth to tug a your heartstrings with a love song. They didn’t seem to play any of her earlier work, mostly just songs from the new album and its predecessor, the 2019 album Reward, with tracks like “Daylight Matters,” “Mother’s Magazines” and the epic “Magnificent Gestures.” However, she did come back out to play a very unexpected cover of the 1980 Paul McCartney classic “Waterfall” for her encore, to which her unusual vocal cadence and harmonic timing was perfectly suited. Cate Le Bon is a musical revelation, and is an artist you should really experience for yourself to really try wrapping your head around her music, but be warned, your brain may never be the same again.
Article/Images: Dean Keim