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First night: Cathy Davey, The Olympia, Dublin

STANDING tall in a striking red dress with boots to match, Cathy Davey is in quite a good mood as she fixes her hair and tunes her guitar.

We're a lovely crowd, apparently. She's having a lovely time, too.

Ah yes, everything is just "lovely". And why wouldn't it be?

After all, the girl has just scored an unprecedented double whammy what with her third album The Nameless having reached the number one spot in both the indie and mainstream Irish charts. Nice job.

Indeed, she's at the top of her game, our Cathy; a rich and often epic talent whose material continues to strike a chord with both the cool kids and their day-time-radio listening rivals.

What's more, this is an artist that you can have a little fun with.

You know, when she isn't trying to electrocute herself.

Water spillages aside, however, Cathy knows her way around a stage, not to mention her instruments.

One minute, she's a foxy drummer and vocalist forced to wear a towel across her lap to, ahem, save her "dignity". The next she's a hip banjo player.

Either way, Cathy comes across as a warm, likeable, and extremely comfortable performer; a gentle rebel, even, who certainly isn't afraid to take risks.

Kick things up a notch, add a string section to the twist, and present to a crowd a tune like Little Red, and it's safe to say that we have a winner.

It doesn't stop there, either, as Cathy's timid yet powerful voice skips its way over a lavish collection of infectious, fairytale-like melodies -- each of them layered with a healthy dose of alternative rock and pop.

Which is another reason to adore an artist of Cathy's calibre.

Forget about the 'Irish Bjork' tag. Sure, it's an easy comparison, but Davey has really come into her own over the past two albums; her quirky and consistently creative approach to song writing a welcome reminder that 'pop' isn't always as dirty a word as some might think.

The stomping Moving is another case in point, as is the delicate yet beautiful Lay Your Hand.

Elsewhere, some neat lighting effects and a few distortion pedals allow for a hidden, scuzzy rock star to emerge during the brilliant Wild Rum, and let's not forget about set closer Sing For Your Supper -- one of the best Irish songs of the past decade as far as I'm concerned. It helps that her supporting cast are in remarkably fine form, too, especially the guitarists.



AMBITIOUS

Over the course of 80 minutes or so, we're treated to a songbook like no other, where ambitious arrangements and subtle sequences go hand in hand.

Better still, Davey doesn't take herself too seriously -- something particularly evident in the way she removes her hair extensions ... I think they were annoying her.

There's even room for a cracking cover of The Jackson Five's I Want You Back near the end.

Overall, "lovely" doesn't cut it, Cathy -- this was something a whole lot more special than that.


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