There is genuine surprise from Katie Nicholas as she greets the crowd at the launch of her EP ‘Feather’. The Scouse singer-songwriter can’t quite believe that “you guys are actually at a gig to hear songs written by me”. It is nothing short of a pleasure to be here though in the hallowed space of Liverpool’s Nordic Church to bear witness to the blossoming of this talented artist. For so long hidden in the shadows, this feels like a moment of stepping (albeit nervously) back into the spotlight. The result is a pre-Christmas gift to an attentive audience that responds with sheer delight throughout.
Before the appearance of Katie, we are treated to a support slot from Guy Called Greg. He is a skilful musician and gifted vocalist whose amiable stage presence captures the attention of the audience with ease. With a voice like Hunter Hayes and a delivery style straight out of the Nashville Writer’s Round playbook, his half-hour set proves hugely enjoyable. ‘Amateurs’ and ‘Caroline’ are particularly worth a mention. The latter is inspired by the final words of the late Caroline Flack, and proves so bittersweet as to deserve a moment of reflection in the pews before Katie takes to the stage.
There is real gratitude in her opening words when she does, as well as disbelief at the number of people who have turned out to her first headline gig. She eases herself (as well as them) into proceedings with a first half filled with songs from her back catalogue. Fans and social media followers will be familiar with such material, though the string quartet that accompanies them for this live concert brings fresh interpretation, and adds an extra, untapped layer of meaning. The introduction of violins halfway through opener ‘Space and Time’, for example, expands the world of the song into the high-vaulted ceiling of this historic venue. ‘Hear Me Out’ similarly closes the first section with an ornate quality that glistens in a way that would be impossible to capture on Instagram. In between, we get to experience Katie’s gentle character and quick wit, through songs like ‘Patience’ and ‘Chemistry’ respectively, as well as in the interludes between them. Yes, there is a slight feeling of apprehension but this soon disappears as she starts singing.
The second half is then dedicated to the new EP. Katie introduces it in very personal terms, speaking of the battle that wages in the heart and mind, which has led to the creation of this record. The theme of time, and particularly its passing, also features heavily. It is above all a celebration of sensitivity and fragility. These all converge in a collection of four songs that balance delicately like a ballerina on tiptoes of strength and vulnerability. The music box sound, heard most evidently on ‘Sitting Ducks’ but threaded to one extent or another through the whole set, sets a tone mottled with sadness and light, darkness and hope. The strings contribute most successfully to this mix of emotion on ‘Tethered Doves’, contrasting with the eventual thrust of guitar and piano to present a really visceral image of the track’s subject.
In between the presentation of the EP, time is taken to honour the late Christine McVie with a cover of ‘Songbird’. It is as heavenly as the sacred space in which it is performed. Pianist Ana Corcoran then follows this with a beautiful solo rendition of ‘And Winter Came’, in which the crispness of the frosty December night outside is keenly felt and made suitably festive. Katie Nicholas then returns to present the heart-breaking story of ‘The Poet’, a song performed with such strength of feeling that it shatters any stained-glass illusions of the outside world and speaks bravely to the icon of the cross that sits silently on the altar behind the stage. Completing the set with ‘Feather’ – the lead single; gorgeous in its imagery; simple yet profound in its delivery; resonating with hope – Katie leaves her listeners with a very personal story that captures something of the present moment: of an artist growing into themselves, rising like the dawn. The applause that echoes after each song, and raises the roof at the finale, tells all. Katie Nicholas is finally ready to shine.
The ‘Feather’ EP is available to purchase via Katie’s Bandcamp site here.
Originally written for and published on Belles & Gals on December 6th 2022.