You know you’ve hit on something good when the support act is as good as the headliner. It may have been The Trials of Cato that we had come to see, but it was the five-piece female band Tant that we went away talking about. Running slightly late, we wandered into the theatre at Pontio Arts Centre and were immediately transfixed by their magical and melodic tones. They proceeded through a half hour set that traversed the boundaries of folk and pop with tremendous subtlety, producing a sound that felt highly original and resultantly captivating. All are clearly talented musicians, whether on harp or guitar, but it was their combined vocals that really struck me. Performing acapella on the song ‘Gwydyr Glas’, their voices played together like wind chimes, singing in beautiful harmony whilst also producing distinct tonalities that made this a really fascinating piece to listen to.
At the end of their set, Tant were wildly applauded off stage. Recognising their popularity, The Trials of Cato twice paid tribute to them during their own set, where the praise was again handed out, and deservedly so. It was clearly an inspired choice to have them open. Only the best could follow. The Trials of Cato are certainly that, having already scooped up Best Album at the Folk Awards in spite of their relatively short career. Opening with an instrumental piece before going straight into ‘Tom Paine’s Bones’, these early numbers demonstrated the toe-tappingly catchy rhythms that make their music such a joy to listen to. ‘Haf’ added a lightness of touch to proceedings before ‘Cân John Williams’ was given a Lebanese vibe thanks to a particularly strong instrumental section at its end. The only slight melancholy in the evening came courtesy of ‘My Love’s in Germany’, but even here the performance was more rousing than depressing.
We were then treated to some new material in the form of ‘Dog Valley’, from an album that should be out later this year. It was a track to sit back and enjoy, reminiscent of freestyle jazz and showcasing their skills as truly accomplished musicians. This and ‘Gawain’ are highly recommended for first-time listeners, the latter their “prog rock” offering, which turned this intimate venue into a few thousand seater stadium through excellent lighting and amplified sound. Two favourites in ‘Aberdaron’ and ‘Gloria’ then followed before they closed out with an excellent rendition of ‘Kadisha’. So good was this final number that there was no need for an encore. Indeed, in hindsight, there should not have been one, for it was hijacked by a woman intent on playing tambourine with them on stage. The intervention of security a few moments later meant that any chance of the band making the best of this unexpected entrance was lost. A chorus of boos followed, and the subsequent final song fell a bit flat. It was a disappointing end, but the only blot on what was an otherwise incredible night of Welsh folk music. The strength of and sheer originality on the national scene at the moment is inspiring. The Trials of Cato most definitely reflect that, and after their performance here, Tant are undoubtedly doing the same.
Featured Images (C) Trails of Cato/Tant
Originally written for Get the Chance on 18th January 2020.