On what is presumably her first ever tour of the UK, possibly even her first ever visit to this country, the Grenadian-Canadian musician and Toronto, Ontario resident Kaia Kater confesses to struggling with driving on the left-hand side of the road. But as tonight also clearly confirms, she does not face any similar problems when it comes to holding an audience in her complete and utter thrall.
The banjo player, singer and songwriter may be only 25 years of age, but given the heightened levels of confidence, charisma and sheer downright class that she exudes, her performance is that of someone who is far more seasoned.
Kaia Kater is here in York along with her regular accompanists, fellow Canadian Dan Rougeau on guitar and lap steel and upright bassist, background vocalist and all-round New York man Andrew Ryan on what is the penultimate date of her short tour of the UK before the three musicians head over to Holland where, apart from anything else, driving between shows should prove to be something that is much more straightforward.
Kater has travelled across the Atlantic to showcase material from Grenades, her third album which was released in the UK back in January. It is a record that tells her father’s story of how he fled his Grenada homeland for Canada in 1986 whilst part of a student exchange programme, three years after President Ronald Reagan had ordered an American invasion of the Caribbean island, an event that had subjected its people to such widespread trauma, turmoil and confusion.
It is a story of emigration, dispossession and the death of one man’s dreams, a powerful narrative that Kater brings to vivid life here in real time and is added even greater emotional resonance by the insertion of news broadcasts from that turbulent time and the recorded voice of her father as he reflects upon that period of his life more than 30 years after the event.
‘Heavenly Track’ is gently ethereal; ‘Meridian Ground’, by contrast, powerfully ebbs and flows; and on ‘La Misère’ Kater, Rougeau and Ryan all group round one single microphone and the song’s impeccably disconsolate three-part harmonies confirm Kater’s view that “the more miserable the content, the happier the melody”.
“Call the priestess to the sound”, Kaia Kater emotes on the album’s supreme title track reminding us of the vocal comparisons that are often drawn between her and The High Priestess of Soul herself, Nina Simone though her laconic blues delivery here is perhaps more indicative of a burnished, late-night Norah Jones. Rougeau’s delicate lap steel adds even greater texture to ‘Everly’ as Kater’s beautifully blurred words just haemorrhage into one another. And ‘The New Colossus’ with its bold message of “how women rule” emphasises just how far Kaia Kater has travelled with this record and how strong she has become by having made that journey through her own history.
Mention should also be made of support act and local university student Crispin Halcrow who breathed solitude, longing and some exquisite enunciation into his own heart-stirring songs, whilst not forgetting for one minute local promoter Please Please You and The Crescent itself who once more have come together to present us with a nigh on perfect evening of high-class musical entertainment.
Photos: Simon Godley
More photos from this show can be found HERE