Music Editor Isabelle Porter reviews Cate’s Birmingham show, praising the artist’s enthralling stage presence and the show’s fun and cosy atmosphere.

Written by Isabelle Porter
Music Editor

In a cosy upstairs room at Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath, a crowd amassed under the pink glow of stage lights. The audience was composed primarily of young women: some were grabbing drinks, others chatting on the dance floor. I noticed two different Taylor Swift cardigans.

This past Sunday, the 15th of October, we all waited with anticipation to see Canadian country-pop singer Cate on one of the final stops of her U.K. and Ireland tour. The pre-show playlist was pure Gen-Z nostalgia, with hits like ‘All Star’ by Smash Mouth and ‘Lovebug’ by the Jonas Brothers. The crowd started singing along when Avril Lavigne’s ‘What the Hell’ came on and were halfway through a heartfelt karaoke of Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’ when opener Elle Coves started her set.

Strumming her acoustic guitar and accompanied by Jim Molyneux on keyboard, Coves was reminiscent of a 1970’s Joni Mitchell. Whilst the studio versions of her songs are decidedly more poppy, this acoustic set allowed Coves’s impressive vocals to shine. She explained how her songs ‘Headcase’, ‘Blonde On Blonde’, and upcoming single ‘Lost Cowboy’ were inspired by the triptych structuring found on Taylor Swift’s folklore.

Coves was reminiscent of a 1970’s Joni Mitchell

At many gigs I have attended, especially within the past few years, a majority of the crowd have talked amongst themselves throughout the entirety of the opening act’s performance. What was heartening about Coves’s set was how invested the audience was, enthusiastically singing along to ‘Lost Cowboy’ and a cover of Noah Kahan’s ‘Stick Season’. Elle Coves is one to look out for, especially for fans of Gracie Abrams and Maggie Rogers.

In the interim between Coves’s set and Cate’s entrance, the crowd was again swept up in the bubbly pop hits of Little Mix, ABBA, Katy Perry, and Natasha Bedingfield. Then, Cate stepped on stage and everyone went wild.

Earlier in the day, Cate had posted on her Instagram story that she had lost her voice. Watching her, you would hardly have known it. She opened with an upbeat performance of her single ‘Girlfriend’ and won the crowd over in an instant. Cate’s vocals were powerful and her stage presence captivating. She enthralled the audience with ‘Hurt At All’ and ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ from her 2022 EP Tell Me Things You Won’t Take Back.

Cate’s vocals were powerful and her stage presence captivating

Taking to the stage solo, she then sang a few songs acoustically, seamlessly mashing up her song ‘The Ruler’ with Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ and offering a pared-back rendition of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’. During her vulnerable performance of ‘Can’t Wait To Be Pretty’, there was a palpable connection between Cate and each person in the audience.

Birmingham was clearly in a ‘cowboy’ mood that night. When Cate invited the crowd to vote for one of two unreleased songs for her to play, either ‘Rocket Science’ or ‘Cowboy See, Cowboy Do’, the vote was overwhelmingly skewed towards the latter. The crowd again relished in bopping along to a kiss-off song about a noncommittal guy, as they did for Elle Coves’s unreleased ‘cowboy’ track earlier that evening.

The crowd sang along to her lyrics with an energy that was at some moments cathartic, and at others, celebratory

Once again, the audience turned into a dance party for full-band performances of ‘One Hit Wonder’, ‘U Want Me’, and ‘Ruin’, among other earworm songs. Throughout the show, the crowd sang along to her lyrics with an energy that was at some moments cathartic, and at others, celebratory.

Through her use of catchy pop melodies and anecdotal country lyricism, Cate’s music strikes a Swiftian balance; her clever pop-culture references and nods to British locales add a freshness to this sub-genre. Fans of Olivia Rodrigo, Avril Lavigne, The Chicks, or Kelsea Ballerini could equally find a new favourite artist in Cate. Watching her in Hare & Hounds, I felt lucky to be catching such an intimate gig by an artist poised to become a sensation.

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