Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening

Gala Theatre, Durham

21 March 2019

People sometimes ask why I see a band several times on the same tour. This is why. I thought Sunday's concert was amazing. Tonight's was better.

Without a support band, the band plays slightly longer, two sets for a total of about an hour and 40 minutes of music. They add in a couple of extra songs, and there's a section in the middle where Kathryn and Amy play a handful of dance tunes as a duo (this would be the equivalent of the "acoustic bit" in a rock concert).

But even without the additions to the set list, the concert would be different simply because of where it is. On more-or-less home ground, Kathryn Tickell relates to the audience in subtly different ways, and the audience responds in different ways. Perhaps worried that people who have a long history with her will dislike her new direction, she's constantly apologising for being so untraditional, and constantly thanks us all for coming out without knowing what we were going to get. But I didn't notice anybody complaining; from where I sat, everybody was completely into it, clapping and singing along, not running in terror at the wah-wah mandola playing, not sniffing disdainfully at the electronic keyboard. And the specific response to the songs is different. "Darlington that pretty little town" gets a laugh, and everybody understands exactly what Colliers is saying—I'm sure a lot of people there understood from personal experience. Even though I'm not a native of the area, I felt how much these songs belong here, and it just feels right to be here with them.

Other than the expanded set, things are largely the same. The staging is the same, perhaps even better as they're getting more comfortable with how each other moves around the stage. The lights are definitely better, really beautiful lighting, with spots illuminating band members from above as they take their solos, and dramatic back-lighting used sparingly but to great effect. There's the same jaw-dropping musicality, and the same energy and sense of people enjoying themselves on stage.

I went with a friend, and didn't tell her anything about it in advance because I wanted her to experience that same feeling I got the other day when the band slowly entered the stage and built the first tune up instrument by instrument. So she was expecting Kathryn Tickell playing some pipe tunes, and of course got...

Well, at the interval she said, "It's prog folk. Amy should wear a cape." Which is perfect, it's how I wanted her to see it. It's exactly the reaction I had (well, not the cape bit, that would be silly). This is a stunningly good modern prog band, and from me I don't think there's a greater endorsement.

This is my new favourite new band.

Best concert I've ever seen.