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Venue: Holywell Music and Folk, Holywell Music Rooms
Town: Oxford
Date: 12/5/18

Kadia have really upped their game since I last saw them play, admittedly some time ago now. Their performances are always tight but today they had extra sparkle and shine, and they’ve even been to Moss Bros and got smart coordinating outfits and shoes! Their first set of the evening kicked off with pace and energy with a new song, Open Sea, about a flame haired floozy named Nancy with a sailor on every ship, into perennial favourite Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight, and the Cricketers Set of Irish tunes, both from 2017’s Outlandish Collection EP. A great start and bursting with energy and good humour.

This evening they aired a lot of new material; they are clearly on their way to creating their second full length album. Little London by the Sea tells a love story set against the backdrop of Dorset town Swanage from where locally quarried Portland stone was shipped out to rebuild London following the Great Fire, rubble from the ruins being shipped back as ballast and sometimes ending up being used in buildings around the town. The Legend of Lyonesse draws on the Arthurian myth of a lost land off the coast of Cornwall engulfed by the sea; a cautionary contemporary environmental warning perhaps. Your Side showcased their vocal harmonies, stripped back with just cello accompaniment, the next installment of the story of The Navigator from their debut album in an arrangement influenced by vocal harmony group The Pentatonics.

I wasn’t sure about their new cover, Fleetwood Mac’s Little Lies. Was this because, flipped into a minor key, it became a sort of double negative with the breakup theme of the song, or because it was an early outing for it and it needs time to bed in? Or perhaps it was the contrast with the following song, their cover of Jim Moray’s epic and moving Sounds of Earth, telling the love story of two scientists on the Voyager project. This was Chris’s moment in the spotlight, with David and Lee also taking a solo spot each. Lee with Old Brown’s Daughter rendered a cappella and with gusto to open the second set, and David with the earworm of the evening, a cover of Josh Ritter’s Another New World. Another clever and evocative love song, this time to an ice bound ship and an homage to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Annabel Lee, his mandolin evoking the brittle crack and chill of the landscape.

We were also treated to a number of old favourites from their debut album East of Alexandria, including Beast of Bodmin, now segued into Raggle Taggle Gypsies, and Origin of Fire. In an already tight performance these old favourites fit like the comfiest pair of slippers, the lads totally relaxed and at ease, toying with them, dropping in the odd improvisation and variation. And taking advantage of the fantastic acoustic in this spectacular venue, they stepped off the stage to perform The Parting Glass a cappella to close the evening, the perfect end to an evening of high quality live music. As one audience member observed ‘when Kadia play everything is right with the world.’

Support this evening was from singer-songwriter Anne-Marie Sanderson. Her love of literature, and the arts in general, is evident in the sincere and heartfelt delivery of her songs inspired by some of her favourite books. She mentions the idea of cross pollination between the various art forms, seeing the potential for one to influence the other, and in the case of the songs from her recent release, Anne-Marie hopes that listeners may go on to discover the novels referenced in her writing.

Her performance is seemingly effortless, underpinned by great technical skill and sensitive use of modern technology to wrap the listener in her meticulously crafted soundscapes. An accomplished guitarist, the accompaniments for the songs feature finger-picked rhythmic motifs that ebb and flow gracefully throughout, each note clearly defined and cleanly executed.

Her vocal danced across delicate sweeping melodies and moments of stillness that washed out across the grand space. These flowing vocal lines showed off the dexterity of her voice, both bright and clear and sometimes soft but always with an underlying intensity. Another evening of great music from Holywell Folk and Music.

Kadia will be joining us for Fatea’s 30th Birthday Bash on 3 November, collaborating with Said the Maiden. Tickets on sale now from

Words: Jo Elkington and Leonardo Mackenzie

Photos: Jo Elkington

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