On the 27th March 2020, just one day after the UK was plunged into the first lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic, Katie Crutchfield, aka Waxahatchee, released her fifth studio album into the world.
Saint Cloud is a record born out of Crutchfield’s journey to sobriety; a progression through the stages of withdrawal to recovery; yet simultaneously a delicate exploration of the beauty of spring in an America full of winding rivers and flowers in bloom. After 3 years (and another release under the collaborative project Plains with singer songwriter Jess Williamson), Crutchfield finally makes it to the UK to tour the album, gracing Brighton’s famous North Laine this evening for a sold-out seated performance.
Australian indie-rock artist, Indigo Sparke opens the show, with gentle guitar strums and forlorn vocals that stretch out and envelope the audience with weary arms. Poignant melodies detailing all-consuming love as heard in ‘Carnival’ and ‘Real’ echo eerily, as the lyrics “filling the blanks with your body” drift effortlessly and hang in the air. And tracks like ‘Sad Life’ carry a new melancholic meaning when played solo on an acoustic guitar.
Fittingly opening with the first track of Saint Cloud, ‘Oxbow’, Crutchfield’s distinct vocals and bold guitar strums bring the acoustic rendition of the track to life. Captivated, the audience sit in silence, taking in every chord and note, too mesmerized to move. Weaving through her own back catalogue, Crutchfield also pays tribute to her inspirations – country greats Alan Jackson and Lucinda Williams – with brand-new covers of 1996’s ‘Everything I Love’ and 1980’s ‘Sharp Cutting Wings’.
‘Problem With It’, a song she originally wrote and performed as Plains, and ‘Fire’, the third track on the album, feel strong and confrontational, as Crutchfield channels every essence of feeling into her distinctive and impressive vocal performance. In contrast, ‘Lilacs’ is playful and relaxed with twangy upbeat guitar riffs and gentle drum beats, and ‘The Eye’ slows the pace and delves into a narration of self exploration.
Returning to the stage for the final two tracks after a standing applause and calls for an encore, Crutchfield finishes her set with the record’s titular and final track, ‘St. Cloud’. A gentle song full of feeling and brimming with emotion, it’s about looking at the world and taking time to be peaceful and reflect. Crutchfield has said in prior interviews that when she wrote ‘St. Cloud’ she always knew it would be the final song on the album – and just as it provided a perfect end to the record, ‘St. Cloud’ provides the perfect end to a moving and engaging performance.
photo credit: Molly Matalon