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Catherine McGrath, Scala, London live review

The UK country-pop is out on her first headline tour.

Catherine McGrath
Credit: Warner Bros. Records

Since she burst onto the UK country scene just a couple of years ago, Northern Irish singer-songwriter Catherine McGrath has been working hard to build a successful career. She released her debut EP in 2016 and has toured relentlessly since, supporting artists including Dan + Shay, Kelsea Ballerini, Morgan Evans and The Shires. Currently she’s out on the road on her first headline tour to promote her album Talk Of This Town, released earlier this summer, including a show at Scala in London last night.

Dressed in a sparkly jumpsuit that oozed 70s disco glam, McGrath opened her set with Good Goodbyes, from her debut album. It’s a light, bright, bouncy song with a poppy vibe, which showed off the sweet rich tones in her voice. The crowd sang along to every word from the off and gave her a massive cheer at the end, setting the template for the whole performance.

Throughout the show McGrath kept the energy in the room high with her selection of upbeat songs. The full band also gave many of her songs a rockier edge which I thought worked well, such as on The Edges with its stomping drums and delicate chorus and the hopeful Good At Love. I also liked the use of electronic elements throughout, particularly on the bittersweet Thought It Was Gonna Be Me which showed off McGrath’s storytelling skills.

Whilst she mostly stuck to songs from her album, McGrath also threw in a few extra tunes too. Fan favourite Hell Would Have To Freeze Over showed off her sassy side with its knowing lyrics and twinkly keyboards, whilst her gentle acoustic cover of Shania Twain’s classic You’re Still The One – a duet with little sister Mary – showed off some gorgeous harmonies and got a huge cheer.

For me the standout moment was Dodged A Bullet. Before performing the track McGrath spoke very openly about the process of writing the vulnerable song and how proud she was of it. She filled the song with yearning and anguish and I really enjoyed the contrast of the shadowy lyrics with her soaring vocals,particularly on the bridge. The twangy, optimistic Just In Case and defiant, self-assured yet playful Enough For You were also highlights.

After a cover of Coldplay’s Fix You which turned into a smooth, dreamy rendition of Wild, McGrath thanked the crowd for coming out and supporting her before snapping a photo with her band. A few minutes later, she returned, joking ‘long time no see’ before performing She’ll Never Love You. The song had a nice balance between its soft, downbeat melody and the sharp, biting lyrics, and the crowd lighting up the room with their phones as they swayed made it truly magical. She followed that with Talk Of This Town, her album’s title track, which for me summed up the show. It’s an uptempo, pop-rock song which highlighted the soul in McGrath’s voice, and the crowd showed their love for her with an enormous cheer and thunderous applause as it came to an end.

Overall McGrath put on a confident, polished show which showed how much she’s come on as a songwriter and performer. She looked incredibly comfortable and relaxed on stage as she rattled her way through a set jam-packed with joyful, upbeat songs that had the crowd clapping, dancing and smiling throughout. It’s clear she’s grown a lot in the last couple of years and on the strength of this performance she’s got a great future ahead of her.

Set list: 1. Good Goodbyes 2. The Edges 3. Lost In The Middle 4. Thought It Was Gonna Be Me 5. Enough For You 6. Don’t Let Me Forget 7. You’re Still The One (Shania Twain cover) (with Mary McGrath) 8. Just In Case 9. Good At Love 10. Hell Would Have To Freeze Over 11. Dodged A Bullet 12. Fix You (Coldplay cover)/Wild 13. She’ll Never Love You 14. Talk Of The Town Performance date: 18th September 2018

Catch Catherine McGrath on her Talk Of Your Town tour this September:

19 September – Birmingham, O2 Institute 3 (SOLD OUT)
20 September – Manchester, Gorilla
21 September – Liverpool, Arts Club Loft (SOLD OUT)
23 September – Leeds, The Wardrobe
24 September – Gateshead, Sage 2
26 September – Glasgow, Saint Lukes

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