Cate Le Bon – Live Review

The Deaf Institute, Manchester – 08/03/2010

by Ellie O’Neill

Meeting your heroes can be a truly terrible experience or one of the happiest moments of your life. When we meet our heroes we do not expect to be disappointed, so when they turn out to be a big fat lecherous let down it can be quite a blow (is there something you’d like to share with us, Ellie? – Ed). 

Though Cate Le Bon is not a hero, she is currently being praised as a fantastic folk singer, specialising in soul soaring songs. Perhaps this is why the performance she gives at The Deaf Institute is so upsetting for the audience who have dragged themselves out on a Monday night, parting with nearly ten pounds for the pleasure of seeing her behave like an angst ridden, slightly pissed adolescent.

She follows the deeply set footsteps of masters of crowd pleasing and teasing; the kings of dangerous dad dancing, Lawrence Arabia. At first, their sound seems a bit too large for the venue, but the soundman sorts it in no time and soon we can hear their lyrics about apple pie beds and dream teachers crystal clear, even if we are not sure what they mean. 

LA demand attention from the audience, and from the response they receive, anyone walking into the sumptuous velvet venue, with its cool smoking area which makes non-smokers wish they’d never quit would think they were the main act.  After insisting we move forward and trying out their new name on us, “Lawrence Arabia And The Bisexuals” they launch into ‘The Beatiful Young Crew’. With lyrics like “We love each other/We hate each other/We’re afraid of each other/Because we want to screw each other”, the track gets a great reception. 

Prior to this, the opening act is Kathryn Edwards, who sings with only a cellist for company. It is a shame she struggles to engage those in attendance, as her songs would be better received had she just made more eye contact.  Her music is akin to Aimee Mann, and though her voice is as wholesome as the cast of Dawson’s Creek, some of her lyrics are dark and definitely worth a second listen. 

Before Cate Le Bon arrives we are treated to a painful sound check where organ notes screech into the PA. It takes so long to get started the magic of the previous acts is broken and people have begun to talk. As she opens the set without bothering to introduce herself or apologise for all the tomfoolery, she seems a little confused at people continuing their conversation, but her stage presence is poor, and though she sings a good song she struggles to bring the throng along. 

The whole performance is painful, so the gritty details will be spared, but a few things must be said. For some strange reason, the band spend most of their time facing the back or looking at something fascinating on the floor; there were far too many tune-ups, and at one stage one of them went off mid set to get more alcohol. It wasn’t rock and roll, it just came across as rude.

Though some songs are met with appreciation, the overall impression is of someone who doesn’t want to be here. She swears and spends most of her time flopping her fringe about in an irritating manner which you can only assume is a base attempt to imitate Beach House’s Victoria Legrand. Some people are singers and not performers but when a singer makes this little effort it is hard to swallow. 

She ends nearly every track with a keyboard mash which sounds about as good as it did when you did it yourself when you were three. The audience do not call for an encore but she returns to the stage regardless, perhaps interpreting the subdued silence as an audience in awe.

If you do not want to watch a hero fall, stick to listening to Cate on CD, it will be far less painful than watching her perform.

8 responses

19 03 2010

This is very wierd. Were you even at the same gig?
A poorly written review which can only lead me to draw the conclusion that Ellie O’Neill must have some long standing beef with Cate. As far as I can remember the audience loved it and were shouting for an encore.
It might help if you actually gave a detailed account of why is was you did not enjoy the music. I guess critical writing is harder than one first thinks.

Also, what does Theoretical Girl have to do with the ‘review’? top marks.
Mathew, Stockport

19 03 2010

I have never met Cate Le Bon in my life but had heard her sing and as I had heard and read nothing but good things about her I went there very much looking forwards to seeing her play and was hoping for an impressive performance. I was sat on the stage section and not one person there was clapping for an encore, and the crowd certainly thinned out fast. I wasn’t drinking that night so my memory of the night is quite clear as I perceived it though as is always the way people have different memories of the same event; ones personal likes and dislikes will always influence our recall of any event.
I thought I made it clear that I do like her music, other than the endings of the final few songs which I thought lacked creativity. What I had a problem with was their showmanship and what I perceived as a lack of preparation which verged on laziness especially when compared to some of the other performances I have seen at gigs where entry is free.
Also I myself am a big fan of acts who engage and acknowledge the audience especially in the setting of such an intimate audience and in my opinion she failed to do this once too often. At one stage she was stood on a pedal making a dreadful noise and had no idea where the sound was coming from, do you remember this? It was close to the end of the set.
I like my musicians personable but professional wherever possible especially when the price of entry is so high.
I am sorry the review was not to your taste. If I was reviewing an album or a single of hers I would have gone into more detail about the songs and why I liked what I did, and why I did not like what I did not. The point of a review as I have always been advised by my editors and even fellow gigians is that a review should describe the overall experience of the gig so it is not just a commentary on what everybody else saw played.
With such little word count it is hard to go into specific details about every song especially when there are two other acts to include in the write up.
I am glad that you had an enjoyable time, do feel free to include more details about your own experience of the gig, it is our differences which make life more colourful. If everybody felt the same life would lack spice and unfortunately in some cases spite; I do not particularly appreciate personal attacks on my writing but you after all are entitled to your own opinion.
I am not sure who you are referring to when you say Theoretical Girl?
Regards, Elinor O’Neill

19 03 2010

Cate le Bon is totally over rated and I think you should stick to that. She was definately shit at the Deaf Institute and L.A were/are obviously the better act. Disappointed seeing Sweet ‘Steve’ Baboo in her band coz his solo stuff is much better too.
Need some points as to why she was bad? generally boring. bad singing. more concern with ‘getting her rum’ which incidently wasnt rum it was southern comfort- hardcore yeah? hmmm. the fact that she didnt know how to finish her own songs with any more than a gliss down the keyboard. totally uninspiring.

24 03 2010

I was at this gig and I to was not drinking (my turn to drive). I loved it! Cate and the band were great. I love the record, but enjoyed the live set more. I like a level of amateurism between songs, it’s crap when everything is so honed. Relaxed and loose, much better. Also I definately heard the crowd call out for more.

29 04 2010
Heart Eshoke

“I am not sure who you are referring to when you say Theoretical Girl?”

The first image that illustrates this review is one of Theoretical Girl.
Larger image:
Probably just an error, right?

I’ve only seen Cate Le Bon once – playing acoustically at the Green Man festival in 2007 and that was ace. I’ve seen Lawrence Arabia quite a few times and they’ve never disappointed. Good fun, highly interactive with the audience if James is on form and the tunes, well, they rock too. I totally get the “kings of dangerous dad dancing” comment, but Lawrence Arabia are not the kings. Status Quo are.

24 05 2010
baby filbertson

Cate’s videos…

‘Shoeing the bones’ –

‘Hollow Trees House Hounds’ –

10 06 2010
David Meer

Better to stick to X-factor if you want someone to ‘put on a bit of a show’ Cate le Bon is raw emotion unembellished and real. Maybe you thought you were going to see Simon le Bon?

19 10 2010

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