Katie Doherty and the Navigators

Community Theatre, Saltburn

20 May 2022

It's only a week since I last saw Katie Doherty, but as most of her set was new songs I thought I really ought to hear them again live after living with the new album for a week.

Actually that's not the real reason. I would have gone again whatever, because Saltburn's not too hard to get to, and I've never been before, and it's really nice, and that's not the real reason either, it's because it's Katie Doherty and a mere 20 gigs isn't enough to hear the best songwriter in the world, and, well, so here I am just stepped out of number 21 and it was the best concert I've ever seen. That's all.

What, I need to say something else? Ok...

I take back what I may have said previously about the Navigators being a rock band. Without the amplification levels of the Sage, they're obviously not, they're folk musicians. But I'm still convinced Katie is a rock singer, she could front a modern rock band, and her new songs are quite obviously rock songs. I don't just mean because of the drums, it's the whole way they are structured, the dynamics and emotive crescendos. Opening song Never Before and new single Hurricane rock, and Flow and the eight-minute A Lifelong Stupid Dream are masterpieces of avant-garde post-rock. And Summer Song might be a ballad, but it's a rock ballad, listen, there's a melodeon solo precisely where your guitar solo would be. Katie writes rock songs. And maybe she always has. And maybe that's why I love her music so much. Because, you know, I only play at being a folkie. At heart, I'll always be a rock fan.

But here's the thing that makes me a bit nervous as I sit in the Community Theatre tonight: I'm in an audience of people here for folk music. You can just see that they are. And there's a big banner outside the theatre saying FOLK MUSIC EVENING. And I worry that these people are going to be disappointed when they hear the first song...

But every single song is well received, and half the audience buys CDs at the end, so maybe I'm completely wrong. Or maybe her songs are just so good that it's impossible not to love them, whatever genre you've come to listen to. Yes. That.

But enough philosophical rambling, I'll try to say something meaningful about the concert.

The Community theatre is beautiful, inside and out. It's got a proper theatre stage and proper theatre seating, holds around 150 and is probably about two-thirds full tonight. And it sounds great. The band is half amplified: the violin, and obviously the electric piano and the taped percussion, and Katie's voice, all come through speakers, but the melodeon isn't miked up, and neither are the backing vocals. And yet everything is in perfect balance and crystal clear. I don't know how that works, but it's a remarkable sound mix.

And the songs ... her songs are just the best songs ever. Katie's songs always make me cry, but tonight I'm in tears at her introduction to Four Strings, because can you imagine a more perfect idea for a song?

And it's just ... I've run out of things to say about her songs and I'm probably just repeating myself. But these are perfect songs. Worth coming to Saltburn for a second listen, and writing this tonight my only regret is that I can't see a sensible way to get to more concerts on this tour.