This winter has shown little mercy to Chicago: the constant stream of snow, the ungodly gusts blowing down from Canada, the roads and trains packed with miserable commuters doing little to hide their miserableness. It’s downright demoralizing, sometimes bordering on dangerous. And it almost claimed Cate Le Bon.
Stuck in the aftermath of a horrific pile-up on I-94, Le Bon and opener Kevin Morby (Woods, the Babies) showed up two hours late, tired but thankfully in one piece. For the sake of momentum and a decent bedtime, Morby slammed through a three-song set of oozy strummers, a trio reminiscent of Dylan but still ripe with that sunny lilt found in any Babies song. While short, the set was the perfect primer for the evening’s headliner.
Le Bon was all apologies for her tardiness, but the audience—either drunk from the unanticipated two hours of extra drinking or Le Bon’s hypnotic Welsh banter—were happy just to see her. (No, really. Several rounds of “We’re glad you’re here!” batted across the crowd). The rest of the evening zigzagged through her catalog, an even distribution of songs from Mug Museum, Cryk, and Me Oh My. The folksy stunner “Are You With Me Now” elicited happy coos, the slightly frantic “Sisters” satisfied swaying. The range of Le Bon’s voice was at times all-encompassing, scratching the ceiling in “Duke,” then sliding back down to the softness of “Mirror Me.” It was this swing in dynamic, the ability to glide from the subdued (“Eyes So Bright”) to bigger sounds (“Wild”) and everything in between, that made her performance all the more notable.
Even abbreviated, Le Bon’s set showcased the diversity that makes it uncomfortable to corral her in the indie-folk pen. Her vocal flits and flings with chimey keyboards and commanding guitar solos seem to be setting the stage for something bigger. Here’s hoping her eventual return comes with warmer weather (and decent traffic).
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