By Russell Warfield
March 05, 2013
With 2010’s gorgeous and largely understated ‘Own Side Now’, there emerges some incongruity between Caitlin Rose’s hard-drinkin-hyper-sassy on-stage presence and the gentle material which she is touring. Gently strumming to vulnerable lyrical sentiments like ‘who’s going to take me home?’ isn’t entirely becoming of her denim-wearing, Stella-glugging, joke-cracking demeanour – in spite of its effortless craft and frequent beauty. But with this year’s excellent The Stand In (an album which Rose herself has described as being her “first attempt at a high kick”), her persona, her performance and her material have met closer alignment. Opening tonight’s performance with the punchy rock n’ roll of album opener ‘No One To Call’, Rose’s personality exudes through the music more naturally than ever before – blending the tenderness of her first album with a spikier kick to the arrangements.
The highest kicks of her efforts are many of tonight’s highlights – not just because this approach marks the breaking of new territory for Rose, but also because she’s agonisingly good at crafting pitch-perfect radio choruses. ‘Waiting’ snaps through a chorus of mega-hook after mega-hook, oozing a confidence and feistiness which previously only found an outlet in Rose’s between-song banter. ‘Menagerie’ ticks all the same boxes, striding with assured, hip-swinging pace through its country stomp, Rose spinning off insanely feel-good melodic licks with complete nonchalance. And of course, the encore of old favourite ‘Answer In One Of These Bottles’ works on a similar level, with Rose (who I suspect to be drunk by this point in the evening) bringing out a whole mass of friends from backstage to provide the call-backs and sing-alongs. It’s a boozy mêlée of everything young, despondent Americana should be.
It is, however, ‘Sinful Wishing Well’ which stands apart as her most mesmeric performances. Given the surprise omission of ‘Own Side’ from the set, ‘Sinful Wishing Well’ is the only time in the evening that we see Rose playing alone with her acoustic guitar – yet it has been perfectly honed into showstopping vocal piece which makes up for the absence of her more popular song. While her big numbers showcase how confidently she can really open up her lungs, and her ornate numbers demonstrate how well she can slink back into a more silkily demure beauty, ‘Sinful Wishing Well’ manages to not only combine these two modes, but sees Rose switching from one to the other masterfully. As brilliantly executed as tonight’s set is in and of itself – with Rose amassing a raft of precociously excellent material just two LPs into her young career – it’s just as much a tantalising taster of what could be to come from Rose. Such moments in her live performances demonstrate how much richer her material has become after a few years of fine-tuning them on the road – as well as how rapidly her song writing is becoming more sophisticated. With new material as strong as ‘Waiting’, and old material as sharpened as ‘Sinful Wishing Well’, it’s tantalising to imagine where Rose could be in five years’ time, as arresting as she already is.