Katie Doherty

The Lit and Phil, Newcastle

23 March 2018

Until Katie Doherty popped up doing a short support set a couple of months ago, I really thought she must have given up playing live. From what she says tonight, she had thought the same thing, until friends pushed her into performing again. She's written a song about it (Navigator, I think the title is), and it's a beautiful, heartfelt message.

And that really sums up why Katie's songs are so good: she writes about real things, whether it's friends who help you through a rough time, or what it's like being a mother, or even people's memories of a ballroom in Wallsend, and she sings them with such convincing emotion you spend the whole night on the verge of tears.

Her concerts have changed in the 10 years since I started seeing her (and the five years since I stopped). A big chunk of her sets used to be her interpretation of traditional songs, but they have all gone now, and everything she sings tonight she's written herself. In a way I miss the variety in the traditional tunes, but the real reason I've always gone to see her anyway is for the songs she's written. I think her voice has changed, too. It's got better. But even though almost all the songs are new (only two, Bridges and Something Warmer, came from the album she recorded ten years ago), they all still have everything that made me fall in love with her music: beautiful and instantly memorable melodies, and words that make you cry.

The nod towards her folk background comes when she leaves the stage for Shona Mooney (fiddle) and Dave Grey (melodeon) to play some traditional tunes in the middle of the set. And really, the two of them are so good, I could probably write an entire review just about them.

The venue is unusual (though not for Katie; I've seen her here before): it's the main floor of a library, and the crowd (of about 80 people) is packed into rows of chairs squeezed in a space between rows of books. It's a small space, and the band is surprisingly loudly amplified. She has a powerful enough voice that I think she could easily fill the space with no amplification at all, so I'm not sure why they chose to go so loud. But it worked, and much as I love purely acoustic music, as a rock fan I'm quite happy to be wrapped in a blanket of loud amplification (I'm not sure all the audience thought the same).

Just a brief final word about the support act: a duo of guitar and voice calling themselves (I think) Altitude. They're really good, but so young! I mean, really, young! (Or am I so old now?) They must be a fairly new partnership, and most of their set is covers, though the only one I recognised was Fleetwood Mac's Landslide. But on the strength of the one song they’ve written together, give them a bit more time and they'll be headlining their own tours.

There's an album promised and hopefully a lot more live dates from Katie's new trio, and that just makes me so happy. It's like rediscovering something you lost a long time ago and finding it's even better than you remembered it was. And finding that it's the best concert you’ve ever seen.