Music Resolution 2009 – Charlotte Hatherley, Night & Day Cafe, 16th September
Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.
It’s a sad fact of life that not everyone is allowed to have gig superpowers. Being in possession of a gig superpower can thus confer tremendous responsibilities on the owner. I have one and a half gig superpowers. The half power is height – at 5’ 10” I am taller than the vast majority of females and significant number of males. This makes viewing the stage quite a lot easier than it does for several my regular gig going mates, most of whom appear to be average height females. Unfortunately it only constitutes half a power because I am still below average height for a male and will always suffer when some 6’ 4” lump decides to stand in front of me.
My other power is far more useful – very sharp elbows. Here the responsibility to others kicks in. I can use these dangerous weapons to repel space invaders, but I should try not to use them too often for a bruised rib is no memento to take from a concert. However should lumps barge into mine, or my average heighted friends’, space too much they will find a short, sharp shock awaiting.
My other friends have their own gig powers. Sarah (see “Of Montreal, January):”http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/hollycruise/entry/music_1/ has free ticket/guestlist acquisition powers. A couple of my Manic Street Preachers loving mates have super-front-row-attraction powers, especially when it’s the front row directly below Nicky Wire. And Cheryl has an unerring ability to meet the band.
And so we went to see Charlotte Hatherley, not realising that we would see her, see her, then see her. Or rather Cheryl would see her, see her then see her. The first sighting consisted of Cheryl’s gig superpower kicking in in its usual location, the ladies’ loo. Not that any words were exchanged.
From here – http://www.flickr.com/photos/25880052@N08/3943072570/in/photostream/ – someone who was probably stood about ten feet in front of me. Night & Day isn’t a big venue.
The second sighting was the gig itself. There’s a few things which are hard to believe about Charlotte Hatherley, starting with the fact that she’s only barely 30. It feels like she’s been around forever, largely because she has in indie terms. She’s only on her third solo album, and it was this which made up the bulk of the night’s set.
It’s always been a bit of a strange one that Charlotte didn’t write many songs at all for Ash, but when she was a member they produced most of their really good, really poppy stuff. Then she left and Ash got seriously into heavy songs that no one really wanted to listen to so much, whilst Charlotte released two albums of pretty good poppy indie with occasional tracks of really-rather-damn-good poppy indie. Which no one wanted to listen to so much. Fools.
So we scooted on down to her low key tour to promote the new album and see her on a break from her day job, playing guitar and laughing at equipment misfortune for Bat For Lashes.
As the guitarist in a three piece she was certainly taking the starring role, and if it was light on older tracks, it was telling that the ones chosen were the likes of ‘Behave’ or ‘I Want You To Know’, the ones where it wasn’t a simple case of power chord thrash. The new songs lived up to this, they were all little nuggets of guitarwork, sometimes loud, sometimes quieter, which seem rather at odds with the current trend for guitars to be either unimaginatively ploddy, unimaginatively ripping off The Strokes, or subservient to synths. We’re not talking fret wanking solos, just clever little riffs and plays. If there was nothing quite as disorientatingly brilliant as ‘Behave’ then it didn’t matter because, as I said, she played that. And some of the other songs were brilliant in other ways. Wahey!
I’ve long based my ‘girls prefer riffs to solos’ theory on Charlotte’s playing, and on new tracks like ‘White’ (twangy verse, swooshy chorus) or the endearingly stalkerish ‘Alexander’.
Having said all that, it was the power chord thrash of ‘Kim Wilde’ which closed the show, and led to sighting number three. As I waffled to Cheryl about how I first heard ‘Kim Wilde’ (Charlotte’s first solo single) whilst working in a hotel kitchen where I met, you guessed it, Kim Wilde herself, I joked “I should tell Charlotte that story”. Naturally Cheryl’s gig power was working wonders that night for poor Charlotte chose that precise moment to walk past us and was thus subjected to a not particularly interesting story about me, Kim Wilde and ‘Kim Wilde’. On reflection, if I was going to tell her any story from my time working in that hotel then the one where I blew a microwave up whilst melting a tinfoil voodoo doll of the owner would have been a better idea.
But she didn’t write a song about that so really, it was her own fault.