Gig review – Charlotte Church @ The Leadmill

Let’s get this out the way nice and early. As an adolescent, b was a classical singer that the likes of Richard and Judy fawned over.  She then became a pop starlet, and allegedly went off the rails (i.e. she liked to drink alcohol from time to time, unlike, well I don’t know, most late teens?).  Now at the tender age of 28, she’s dropped off the radar – or at least the radar of those who aren’t willing to tune past Radio 1 or switch over from MTV.

None of this should come as any surprise to anyone who has followed the Welsh songstress lately.  There have been plenty of interviews laden with Radiohead and Bjork gushing, and this has filtered through into Church and her band’s new sound.  Taking to the stage in neon-lined grey hoodies, they open with a one-two of Remains and Like a Fool, both of which seem to encompass what this new venture is all about.  It’s theatrical, it’s grandiose and it’s off-kilter.  These opening seven minutes skirt around baroque chanting, soulful vocal gymnastics, trip-hop atmospherics and full-throttle post-rock crescendos.

The only real glimmer of pop comes in the form of a sing-along chorus of Say it’s true and the soppy and sentimental first half of Lasts, or Eschaton; otherwise, we’re treated to a couple of hours of quite the cluster-fuck.  Church and band treat us to most of the new EP Three and it all stands shoulder to shoulder with the previous two.  Two track Nerve is one of the highlights of the evening; two tandem drummers drive the song, while fizzes of instrumentation paint a backdrop for Church’s vocoder effected vocal to shine through.  The grunge-tinged chorus hits like a brick; Church bellowing “You don’t listen to anything / You don’t want to hear / Well what am I to do?” over distorted power-chords and deafening drums.

Later in the set we’re treated to future EP Four track Little Movements, coupling Talking Heads rhythms with Queen vocal harmonies (all done by Church with a loop pedal), and a rather special cover of Ultra Náte’s Free, replacing the soulfulness of the original with balls-out heavy rock with great success.

The truth is, had Charlotte Church not had such a stigma attached to her, she’d be sharing NME’s pages with fellow electronica acts like Grimes, Chvrches, Bastille et al, but alas it’s not to be.  Massive kudos to Church’s band; they really breathe life into the songs, and give them that edge that so many alternative acts fail to replicate.  They finish with the aforementioned Lasts, or Eschaton before the excitable Cardiff girl says her goodbyes. It’s clear this isn’t some Kylie Minogue Confide in me indie phase; Charlotte Church is in it for the long-haul and long may it continue.

Words: Ad Follett.

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