Kathryn Williams : London South Bank Queen Elizabeth Hall

A pleasant return from the Mercury nominated songstress...

Kathryn Williams isn’t the only person having trouble with her concentration tonight. Famously shy, more at home in a gentle coffee-house than the Queen Elizabeth Hall, she’s aware that she’s rambling away in the middle of this big stage but can’t quite stop herself. She talks about her forthcoming marriage and, at one point, the fact her bladder is currently stealing her show . “Oh, I’m glad I said that,” she giggles, appalled, ten seconds later. This is not the kind of show which you’d find Kate Moss clamouring to attend : just a bundle of unruly hair and self-deprecation, the quiet resonance of acoustic guitar, double bass, strings and pure voice, and a clutch of songs about wasps and bees and mad people.

It’s difficult not to demand high-sodium, sugar-saturated thrills from a live performance and for a moment, it doesn’t look like Williams is going to quicken the blood and unleash the serotonin in any useful RDA way. Nominated for last year’s unhinged Mercury Music Prize for her second album ‘Little Black Numbers’, there are moments when the homespun weave of bass and guitar betray the marks of Nigella Lawson lifestyle approval. Yet as she plays ‘Fade’, the co-dependency lament of ‘Bad Men And Maniacs’ or new samba-soft song ‘I Made The Beatles Appear’ – based on an encounter with a deranged hitchiker – it’s clear that an alert and watchful eye blinks through this dreamy demeanor. “Fade into the wallpaper,” she sighs deceptively, and you suddenly understand her trick: to observe, to listen, and to reappear brighter than ever.

Victoria Segal