LIVE: Astrid Williamson, Edwin Williamson, Danny Bradley - Birmingham Kitchen Garden Cafe, 28/02/2022 2

LIVE: Astrid Williamson, Edwin Williamson, Danny Bradley – Birmingham Kitchen Garden Cafe, 28/02/2022

Located just over the road from Kings Heath’s excellent Hare & Hounds venue, the Kitchen Garden Cafe is becoming another much loved location on the Birmingham live music circuit, with its welcoming atmosphere and laid back approach. Tonight it’s the setting for Astrid Williamson, once of Goya Dress but now with eight solo albums under her belt, to celebrate the release of the newest one, Into The Mountain, which was released on 18 February.

Danny Bradley takes to the stage first though, and beguiles the audience with some seriously impressive but never showy acoustic guitar work, adding vocals that are pitched somewhere between Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Nick Drake, which is obviously no bad thing. I glance around the room to find the second guitarist; no, it’s just Danny! There’s a moment of levity when Bradley sings “Did you leave your phone?”, only for a phone to ring out from the audience, right on cue. Whether that phone belonged to my gig-going companion has not yet been confirmed (ok it did, and he’s very sorry!).

Bradley will return later to accompany the headline act, but in the meantime we have Astrid’s brother Edwin Williamson with an entertaining acoustic set, starting off solo and then bringing in his sister for the latter part of his slot. Edwin’s vocals are part (almost namesake) Edwyn Collins and part Nikki Sudden; his songs are well received by an audience who also certainly appreciated a bit of bonus Astrid before the main set.

Astrid is one of those artists who you feel just has to make music; she is spectacularly gifted both on piano / keyboards and guitar, not to mention her wonderfully pure voice. The music she plays seems to just flow from her, like it is truly part of her. She begins with the title track from Goya Dress’ one and only album Rooms, accompanying herself on piano to mesmerising effect – it’s reminiscent of something from Kate Bush’s Fifty Words For Snow, though it’s only fair to point out that Astrid’s song does pre-date that album by 15 years! It’s a song that Goya Dress didn’t perform live, so is a treat for long-time fans here.

She brings back Bradley to supply some of that atmospheric acoustic guitar sound and introduces Richard Yale who provides bass – the trio represent the songs on Into The Mountain very well indeed, considering what an expansive sounding album it is. As Astrid explains, for some of the songs, she just wants to use the live sound of the three people on stage, despite the more electronic nature of many of the tracks; new but faithful versions are therefore born.

The first of the new songs is one of the album’a highlights ‘Corsica’, the crowd is pin-drop attentive throughout (with not even a stray ringtone!) and there’s a welcome version of first solo album track ‘I Am The Boy For You’, the intensity of the recorded version dialled back slightly for this rendition. Recent single ‘Coming Up For Air’ is in with a shout as the best song of Astrid’s career and the stripped back reading here suits it perfectly, allowing Astrid’s vocals to shine through.

Despite the acoustic versions on offer, we also have some Electronica, ‘Body’ from the new record benefits from this treatment, though Bradley is apparently terrified of the ‘teeny tiny keyboard’ that is needed at times to produce this! The spoken word delivery at the start of ‘Gun’ is devastating, it’s another key track on the new album and the trio absolutely nail it tonight.

It’s a wonderfully intimate set that gives a glimpse of the chapters of Astrid’s career so far, a journey of many highlights that will hopefully continue for some time to come.

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.