Ed Harcourt, Catherine A.D. – St Philips Church, Salford, 3rd June 2013

We arrive at the venue towards the close of a glorious early summer day and all around us, the back streets of Salford are filled with happy people drinking beer and basking in the heat reflecting from the baked pavements. But in contrast, the interior of St Philips Church is cool, still and serene as Catherine A.D. takes to the stage, resplendent in black hat and white dress. Sat before the altar at the grand piano, her strong, rich and soaring voice rises to the roof of the church as the chords rise from the keyboard and around our ears. She produces elegant and stirring mini-symphonies with their deeper moments of introspection and heartbreak spread out by wonderfully inventive and dexterous flourishes on tracks such as ‘The Heart Wants to be a Hammer’ and Going Wrong’.

In one sense it’s complex and deeply textured; in other senses it’s purely perfect pop music that is delivered without striving for intellectualism – that contrast is one of her greatest strengths. Meshing perfectly with the piano and vocals are the skilfully-woven violin lines of Sophie Green that dart through her tracks like golden thread: adding colour and contrast in perfectly understated measures. For a closer, she manages to transform Lady Gaga’s Telephone’ into a stirring yet semi-mournful piano lament that plainly showcases two things: the sheer quality of the original as a pop song and her own unique ability to twist anything into her own inimitable style. It’s as good a pop cover as I’ve heard in many years and a quite perfect send-off from an artist with a uniquely rich tapestry of luminous and beguiling talents; with touches of magic in her slender fingers.

Ed Harcourt’s entrance takes the entire audience by surprise as we swivel around in our seats as the chords of the church organ rise from behind us as the heady tones accompany opening track Brothers and Sisters’. Following on from that stirring introduction, he rushes downstairs, up the aisle and directly onto the grand piano. As the sun sets and the church takes on a more sombre and reflective atmosphere, we are treated to an absolute masterclass in contemporary songwriting and performance. His songs on piano tingle and waver with their fragility, as his rich vocals implore you, beg you and tug at each sinew of your heart. With his guitar strapped around his neck, he fills the church to the brim with delicate picking and rich, experimental waves of feedback that he uses as backdrop for his songs. It is simply sublime, not least when he walks back and forth along the length of the aisle singing and playing acapella – the crowd held in rapt amazement. He brings Catherine A.D. back on to sing a poignant Church of No Religion’ – amplified in delivery by the ironic contrast of the environment around us, before he finishes the main set by imparting from the lectern and clambering onto the altar rails during a striking Until Tomorrow Then’. Leaving to rapt applause and returning, smiling and bowing when such applause continues unabated, he delivers a mournful and heart-rending piano version of The Man that Time Forgot’ before a yearning and pleading Apple of My Eye’ brings everything to a dizzying conclusion.

Amidst the most beautiful of surroundings, Ed Harcourt somehow managed to fill the space of worship with the sound of almost impeccable beauty and songwriting as fine and rare as precious silk. There’s an art to wonderful songwriting and an art to delivering such songs with a flair and skill that transcends simply listening and actually brings you into the heart of the artist. For Ed Harcourt, the two are interconnected in the most magnificent way. Stunning – any other word would feel too unbecoming of such a truly remarkable show.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.