Back to the wonderful Union Chapel, rightly voted as a fans favourite venue this year in London. Rumours in the queue standing patiently outside on a mild, overcast evening suggest there are only 10 tickets left, so we can expect a buoyant atmosphere. Bands as eclectic as Keb Mo’, Clannad and Ani Difranco will grace the stage soon, but tonight it’s the turn of the delectable Caitlin Rose and her support/backing band, Los Colognes. Over the course of two outstanding albums, 2010s debut Own Side Now and 2013s The Stand In, Rose’s profile has risen rapidly, her combination of sass, strut and swoon beguiling crowds and critics alike.
This is Los Colognes first UK gig. They amble on looking like a cross between the plaid-shirt Nashville crews and Britpop’s anti-image jean and trainer shoe-gazers. So much for looks; the immediate references are the (peaceful) easy feeling of mid-career Eagles and the relaxed delivery of Dire Straits circa Romeo and Juliet. Built on prominent walking bass lines and soft-shuffle drums, the songs are lounge-bar Country where the groove is deep, wide and solid. Get Down benefits from a vocal that delivers just behind the beat and One Direction maintains the quality, but it’s the title track from their album Working Together that really shows their quality. A wry, upbeat tale of the compromises you may, or may not, make under one roof has a great guitar line and showcases some nice understated lead work.
Clearly accomplished musicians, there’s a tendency for the delivery to err on the polite side; there were one or two occasions where I waited for them to let rip and it didn’t happen. Not during their set, anyway. They finish with, I think, Chicago, a fast paced blues with some excellent piano work – ‘Got my mojo working / Just don’t work on you.’ Not true; the crowd were attentive throughout and sent them backstage with warm applause.
The venue is full when they return to back Caitlin Rose (is this their second UK gig then?), who strides to the microphone confidently but perhaps a little more nervous than we think, two hesitant ‘hello’s’ her only introduction before No One To Call. The overall sound is instantly beefier, Rose’s voice effortless above the muscular riffs and percussive ride pattern. Third song, the Deep Vibration’s I Was Cruel is a gem with a slow chorus and a lyric that paints Rose as the girl with a mean streak she didn’t know she had. The opening salvo, which includes the strident Waitin’, highlights the band’s ability to ramp it up and they sound as, if not more, comfortable with Rose’s brand of Cline and Ronstadt Country than they did in their own slot.
As the gig goes on, Rose begins to relax and the song introductions lengthen. She has a quirky sense of humour and a breathless delivery that means words are often lost as she falls over herself to articulate meanings and origins of songs, but the control returns when she sings. The combination of innocence (she sings ‘frickin’ instead of ‘f**king’ during The Felice Brothers cover, Dallas because ‘we’re in a church’) and head girl is potent; she could bat her eyes and you’d be hers, but be warned, she’ll be flossing with your bones come the morning. Silver Sings and Pink Champagne, ‘this is about a Las Vegas marriage’ precede a brilliant Own Side Now from the debut album and a Karen Dalton cover, Something On Your Mind.
The crowd have begun to whoop and holler by now, but Rose brings the momentum to a halt with a vocal and piano only rendition of a new song she calls Little Loves, the music-hall style melody given to her complete ‘…by a ghost’. She sings it off mic, swaying back and forth in her own world like a child at a school rehearsal. It’s wonderful. The aforementioned Dallas reintroduces Los Colognes, before a mature new song (Gemini?) and one of the highlights from The Stand In, Only A Clown, which we are led to believe was inspired by her parents insistence on hiring a creepy clown to amuse the children at their 70s muso parties. It’s the first time at the Chapel that I’ve seen the entire crowd rise to boogie along, a testament to both the singer and the pacing of the set, which reaches a crescendo at the very moment the standard set finishes.
We’re treated to three encores, John Prine’s That’s The Way The World Goes Round and, to tumultuous roars, the rather special and personal favourite Shanghai Cigarettes. The crowd begins to leave but Rose appears again to sing T-Shirt from her 2008 EP Dead Flowers with just a tambourine for accompaniment. As if proving she doesn’t want to leave, she shortly returns out front to meet and sign merchandise, happy to sit patiently, chat and be the focal point of photo after photo. A class act until the end.
Review by: Paul Woodgate
Los Colognes are:
Jay Rutherford – Guitar, Vocals
Aaron Mortenson – Drums, Percussion
Gordon Persha – Bass
Micah Hulscher – Keyboards
Chuck Foster – Keyboards
Zach Setchfield – Guitar
Wojtek Krupka – Guitar
Caitlin Rose Set-List:
No One To Call
I Was Cruel
Own Side Now
Something On Your Mind
Sinful Wishing Well
Only A Clown
That’s The Way The World Goes Round