Despite having nine solo albums and several more collaberative endeavours under her belt, Kathryn Williams walks onto the stage with a nervousness that belies her experience. Shy and awkward, I sit with a pensive anticipation that the Queen Elizabeth Hall might be about to stage a train wreck. “I was here 7 months ago and I was pregnant. I’ve had the baby but I’ve left his room the same just in case he wants to move back in” she quips, in the same self deprecating manner that the “small but perfectly formed” audience will come to expect as the set progresses. I experience a moment of relief – if nothing else there will be brief interludes of comedy tonight.
Fortunately however, when put in front of a microphone for the purpose of singing at least, Kathryn seems to find her own inner beauty. Despite rooting herself next to the stand, she gives a sweet and passionate delivery of old songs such as Flicker and Soul to Feet, which is one of only a few real highlights, from her Mercury Prize nominated Little Black Numbers as well as providing a timeline through to her 2010 solo release The Quickening. In spite of this though, she still seems to a degree to be carried through on the strength of her bands sympathetic bolstering of lyrics which at times seem simplistic and unchallenging. As Kathryn herself begins to joke at one point, she is shown up by a stellar band whose musicianship seems to far outstrip her own.
Having held a poll on the Southbank Centre’s website under the heading to ‘Curate a gig’ she begins to round off with Velvet Underground’s Candy Says and I consider whether it is telling that one of the highlights of the night is actually a cover. Whilst the rest of the audience might disagree, and with the acknowledgement that this is another folk singer with a well developed cult following, it suddenly becomes apparent why Kathryn Williams has never really broken into the mainstream.