Part of Cork Midsummer Festival 2012
A survivor of the Irish Singer-Songwriter scene of the early 2000s, David Kitt was always a strange prospect even within that company. While the acoustic guitar was king and emotions were very much worn on the troubadour’s sleeve, here we were presented with a more low key approach. Sonically, utilizing beats and unusual textures set against his languid delivery, there was a soothing quality that flitted between hypnotic and monotonous.
Charmed by the story of his first record, an impressive set that was recorded in his bedroom before it crept surprisingly on to the larger stage, this collective summer fling we had with him blossomed into The Big Romance of his second release and for a while he had his place amongst the Irish music scene firmament. The style of blending the electronic and the more traditional band elements was reflected in other acts at the time, from Autamata to Simple Kid, and Kitt’s aesthetic can be seen, to some degree, in a contemporary artist like Jape.
After the double punch of his first two albums the world did seem to move on – I know I did – placing him as very much a cult act with an established audience but one unlikely to trouble the mainstream anymore. For an artist who revels so much in the intimate, this is wholly appropriate. Playing his first release Small Moments in its entirety as the first part of the gig allowed the audience to glimpse that early Kitt, the hushed beauty of a world crafted in isolation before being lumped into scenes or dissected by the world at large, and as a result of that there’s a purity to the work. Veering from the shimmering and subtle guitar figures of its opening track ‘There Are Words’, to the sun-kissed dreamy ballad of ‘Step Outside in the Morning Light’, still an example of graceful dynamics and gorgeous musical shading, the album (not an EP as the singer stressed) remains unaffected and deeply affecting.
‘Another Love Song’, which featured his brother on the original track, a child’s voice of shaky uncertainty, tonight has a confident backing vocal provided by the same person, now older and actually able to match the older Kitt vocally himself. Having his brother Robbie as backing musician here lent an even greater sense of ceremony to the playing.
‘Sound Fades with Distance’, my favourite track from Small Moments, still sounded as fresh and lovely as back then, and that led into the cathartic release of ‘Headphones’, as unruly as this era’s Kitt ever got – a dense mix of striking guitar lines whipped up to a frenzy. As an exercise in revisiting a defining work, this was a moving show, partly perhaps due to the nostalgia my young self has for the work. Either way, Small Moments got a substantial airing.
The second half of the gig began with a triumvirate of new songs that, while pleasant, didn’t stretch the house style very far. That is one easy criticism of the man, that his style can often become repetitive, soft guitar lines set against thumping beats – there are only so many times you can take that combination and fashion a suitably engaging whole. Since his last tour recreated The Big Romance in full, selections from that were few and far between – ‘You know what I want to know’ being the big hit played, while ‘Song from Hope Street’ was curiously absent.
A warm cover of Womack & Womack’s “Teardrops” gave us another side of his craft, his reinterpretation of another artist’s work put through his own laid back filter. On good form throughout, he genuinely seemed to enjoy the gig and professed affection for the much-missed local institution that was The Lobby, an obvious touchstone for him and where I caught a few of his marathon gigs back in the day.
A cry out from the crowd for a Damien Rice song prompted laughs and some wry remarks from the singer. He took the request faux pas in his stride before ending the show with a song that segued into a cover of ‘Neon Lights’ by Kraftwerk, letting the gig play out on an understated and dreamy note. A wonderful retrospective show.