There is a saying in Hollywood that the gun you see in the first scene will go off in the third. In this performance by Kate Daisy Grant, with her soon-to-be-husband, Nick Pynn, it was the toy birdcage that was the gun on the table. Just one amongst a quirky range of instruments also including a toy ballerina, this avian accessory brought smiles. But could Grant avoid it becoming overly twee?
The location initially didn’t promise much, a small candlelit room on the third floor of a language centre that could only fit two dozen people. Yet Grant, dressed in a feathery top with a large bright bow, was unfazed,constantly chatting to the audience while preparing the cramped environment, introducing and explaining each song. Her voice was accomplished, plaintive and expressive by turns. The lyrics at their best, accompanied by jaunty piano chords, sounded like a minimalist fairytale with an extra bite - ‘Once upon a time there was a girl in the attic/ Befriended by an angel in the body of Elvis’ opens the catchy ‘Balls of Steel’. At times though, such as the sluggish ‘Roadblock’ they became impenetrable, and confusing.
It is Grant’s versatility that provides the greatest entertainment, moving from piano to cymbal to electroharp, supported by electronic loops. Her songs throw idea after idea at the listener while Pynn brings steady support with a whispering violin and confident drum beats - those who thought wine glasses could only be played as a drunken after-dinner trick will be impressed by how Pynn pulls it off with aplomb. When the toy birdcage was stylishly put to use as well, the only shame was that the ballerina didn’t feature due to preview jitters.
The performance was restricted but by the venue rather than the musicians. When Grant’s vocals wanted to soar, they were limited by the acoustics; her reimagining of a Wilfred Owen poem would, in a larger environment, have been a tour de force.
For fans of quirky indie-pop in the Yann Tiersen mould, or of intimate and unusual shows, then it’s worth putting up with this constraining environment to hear something truly off the beaten track.