Cat Loud stands and delivers a flawless a cappella performance, a bluesy voice overflowing with restrained pain at being eternally damned. Every syllable is subtly tinged with sadness, a resigned lack of hope that only a true jazz singer can muster. Mix this with a surreal storyline full of quips & laughs, add a sprinkle of cutting, dry wit (“Nothing says I’ll cut you like a Yale”) and here you have the makings of a truly special show.
Together with Blueswater pianist Rob Harrison, Loud takes us down the rabbit hole to a surreal evening; it’s her the realisation that life in London is analogous to dancing with the devil and a subsequent decision to move back to her Scottish home. Immediately Loud disarms us with melody and gets us onside with the gentle patter of a deceptively superficial tale. But there is beauty in the story, casual remarks that Loud drops into conversation but which effortlessly cut the state of the world to shreds. Loud has an answer for everything, never arrogant or self-satisfying, but brutally honest and unashamed in her delivery.
She’s walking down a dark alley with some shopping and gets transported by a white rabbit down into the first circle of hell – a jazzy Lewis Carroll club where you can picture the devil in a pinstripe suit. It’s liquor and voodoo and blues – it’s heady and sensual and deliciously warped. Loud paints a powerful picture here – salacious and sultry and so, so cool.
In between tales she sings, opens the veins of her soul and lets them bleed into the room. It’s a call to arms as much as a requiem of lament. Thatcher put feminism in a coma, for which we mourn, but she woke when she heard Mel B laughing at the start of “Wannabe”. We rejoice – she is back and with Loud’s soundtrack rallying us behind her, she is here to stay. Screw you, fields of wheat.
There’s also some beautiful commentary around the myth that is love, which Loud accurately describes as her STI – Self-Triggered Irrationality. With a gentle tone of voice that carries gravitas and authority, Loud is an authentic individual, speaking about herself and reflecting her insecurities right back at us. My inner monologue often gives me tinnitus too.
All this makes for a beautiful evening, but then Loud intersperses the story with songs, her true comfort zone. “My soul is weary” is one opening line – instantly we feel the weight of the world bearing down on us. I’m 28 and in that moment, I am single-handedly forced to fight the world alone. It all just gets too much.
Loud has expert vocal control and an understanding of the metre of the genre that comes with great experience. But the angelic moments are in the ebb and flow of her songs, whisking us away into the emotional world that she conjures up. “I’m young and strong but I feel old and tired” – Loud sees into my soul, rips it out and holds it up for the world to see as an example of another millennial crushed by the pressures of society. Pathetic and vulnerable, I see myself in her eyes and break down, unleashing a well-overdue catharsis.
Loud ends with a beautiful narrative cycle, emerging back from the rabbit hole with a new sense of life. As she climbs out, she leaves us with the memories of her journey, a vocal masterclass brimming with nuance, inflections and technique. I leave the room simultaneously heavy and revitalised, a pressure that has been let out only to build up bigger than before. Loud does all this in a show that I never want to end.
Cat Loud plays Space Triplex as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 until 25 August 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.