Live Review: Caitlin Rose in Brighton
While I have a certain level of affection for toilet venues with sticky carpets, a weird, indescribable smell and graffiti-covered walls, it’s always an absolute joy to chance upon a small venue which makes an effort. Proud Cabaret in Brighton’s Kemptown is one such place. Formerly the Hanbury Ballroom, Proud has had a revamp. Boothed seats kiss the picture frame-decked walls while a dancefloor sits below a beautiful domed ceiling. The result is a lovely room which creates an intimate atmosphere.
In such pretty surroundings, it was only fitting that the opening act was aesthetically pleasing. Andrew Combs (pictured, right) is a devilishly handsome singer/songwriter out of Nashville, Tennessee. Opening solo, before adding some pedal steel and then a full band, his songs were a country with a bit of folk and a drizzle of 60s blues. Combs‘ gentle guitar strumming, love-lorn lyrics and wistful gazes under a white stetson had even the most red-blooded male in the audience swooning like a 50s housewife. Engaging stuff.
Caitlin Rose bounded onto stage seemingly full of beans but it soon transpired that she was actually rather ill. Her throat, she told us, felt like it had mice living in it. Indeed, she was losing her voice to the point that her between-song banter was little more than a collection of incredibly high-pitched squeaks and beats of silence, like a teenage boy whose voice was breaking bad. Caitlin Rose though, is not a teenage boy. She is a super talented lady and it was gonna take a whole lot more than a dodgy throat to scupper this show. Instead, she decided to adopt an alter-ego called Ruth, and battled on.
But for a rare struggle to reach a note, during her songs it was hardly noticeable that the Nashville songwriter had a sandpaper throat. Her set was strong as, backed by a full band including the aforementioned Andrew Combs, she belted through her impressive back catalogue, including songs from her latest record, The Stand In. There was also a cover of Dallas, by the wonderful Felice Brothers, and a delicate acoustic breakdown including a pared-back duet with Combs.
Country music with pop sensibilities played out with hooks galore as, amid acoustic and electric drums and pedal steel, she told spiky tales of heartbreak and love. Every song was cheered rapturously by an enraptured crowd, and deservedly so. Caitlin Rose’s voice might nearly have died tonight, but her show was still to die for.