Home > Reviews > Live Reviews > 29/11/2013 | Karine Polwart – St John The Evangelist, Oxford

29/11/2013 | Karine Polwart – St John The Evangelist, Oxford

Lisa Ward


There is perhaps no venue more fitting for Karine Polwart than a church. Whether she’s singing about laying grief at an alter in Sorry, paying tribute to Christopher Wren (architect of St Paul’s Cathedral) in King of Birds or lamenting to the sinner who met her demise with salt in Tears For Lot’s Wife, the biblical references are abundant.

On top of the biblical tone, we’re also treated to songs about people and places. The heartbreaking Salter’s Road pays homage to a neighbour, whilst Tinsel Show takes us back to her childhood and the view of her landscape. Still, if there’s one track which truly captures the heart of Karine’s poetic nature then Sticks and Stones takes the crown, the atmospheric music adding to her exploration of what it means to call somewhere home.

Tonight I’m clearly not alone in my adoration of Karine, St John The Evangelist is packed to capacity and despite arriving early, I still find myself with a back row seat. Yet tonight my love wanes ever so slightly. Despite the impressive back catalogue on display at the merch stand, anyone who’s seen Karine since the release of latest album ‘Traces’ will recognise the set as all too familiar; even the jokes and introductions are re-runs of previous shows.

Those fresher to her set no doubt enjoyed the intricate harmonies, and the musicianship of Karine, brother Steven and sidekick Inge Thompson. Hopefully they also engaged with Karine’s more political nature; the digs at Donald Trump in Cover Your Eyes and the exploration of Trident in Better Things. For me however, it’s like preaching to the converted, and I’d have welcomed some variation, and an outing of the less played tracks of her earlier years.