Charlotte Hatherley - Manchester Roadhouse - 13.10.07

Just as Johnny Wilkinson is sharpening the toe end of his rugby boot to kick England into the World Cup final and the pubs of Manchester become high spirited pits of celebration. The elegant Charlotte Hatherley is sat down, obliviously strumming through an acoustic set flanked by Jen and Charlie, her crafted compadres. France and England could be having a full on war on Newton Street just outside and it wouldn’t phase Charlotte tonight, she is a picture of focused calmness.

 Of her two albums, the roving, clattering and searching debut of ‘Grey Will Fade’ and the crisper coming of age that is new foray ‘The Deep Blue’, it is offerings from the latter collection that moulds better into this stripped down and personal setting. There is no better song that bears this fact out than the dreamy, deep escapism of ‘Wounded Sky’. Sitting calmly, projecting her crisp Kim Wilde and shades of Joan Baez range, Charlotte is the antithesis of her rough cut presence during her Ash days, remember those? I think we all do.

This doesn’t stop the playful banter between songs with her helpers and the tightly huddled audience alike, as dynamism is added to the set list when it is made up as they go along. The range is projected through the versatility of the eloquent vocals that move from high to deep then to soft and reflective, as the guitars swiftly match these changes. Soft and supple streams are seeped into tracks like ‘Forever Lost’, giving a subtle, yet soul wrenching feel to proceedings. On the other hand, at times, the vocals and accompaniments become so pronounced and robust, you’d swear blind that that a blues band has just gate-crashed the joint, ‘Very Young’ being a case in point.

It is a lush and playful pop element that peers out of a slightly dark and lyrically murky vein that gives this pondering songstress an edge, through ‘Be Thankful’ and the country coated ‘Summer’. These two works of art fully encapsulate the lighter side to this artist of many dimensions.   It is this element that if built upon, could see Charlotte make Beth Orton budge over to make room at the top for another foraging and ranging artist. An earthy and soulful cover of Abba’s ‘What’s The Name Of The Game’ ends matters on a poignant note, everyone in the room leaves having seen this former spark from Ash in a new light.

David Adair

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