1st March 2013
Caitlin Rose looks like a devotional painting when she sings. With demure hair and eyes raised piously above the audience, she seems strangely detached from the sounds coming out her mouth. The purity and long reach of her voice is undeniable; on songs such as ‘For the Rabbits’ from her 2010 debut Own Side Now, the pining notes are the heart of the song. However, such settled vocal confidence dulls the grit and risk in the performance.
The audience too are curiously uptight and, though the gig is sold out, the enthusiasm during the set remains coldly restrained; talkers are shushed, jostlers tutted. It is only when Rose’s eyes drop between songs and connect with the crowd that the gig achieves any energy. Following the gently harmonized ‘Only a Clown’, from her new release The Stand In (2013), Rose starts a running gag in her Tennessee lilt, about how it is “glorious – wet and musky in here”; she closes a song by saying impishly “Thank you for your perspiration” and gets a proper laugh when using sweat as a ploy to sell t-shirts.
Speaking, Rose seems charmingly spontaneous. Musically, she slips into formula, repeating the blueprint of two or three steady verses then a guitar riff, followed by a final, more lively, round up: ‘Menagerie’, a romp that gets the audience bobbing reluctantly, is one of a few exceptions to this. Even the band’s encore is on automatic pilot: they go through the motions and stand off to the side, but don’t bother to leave the stage. Towards the end of the gig, an audience member pipes up with “We love you!”. Rose’s pat reply sums up her style playing live: “Aw, I love you too… we mean it as much as we can.”