Cattle and Cane believe that their music needs to be experienced in a smoky late night bar for full impact. Either that, or the Leadmill have serious problems with their smoke machine being stuck on maximum. Anyway, wandering into the smoke-filled Leadmill, I watched the first UK headline tour from Cattle and Cane. I was expecting Americana, especially as the warm up DJ set the mood with Springsteen and the Byrds. And there was a lot of mood to set, the first problem for this writer would be to allow for the scheduled 10:10pm start time when there’s plenty of Goose Island IPA behind the bar.
When they did take the stage, the 4 Teeside siblings (plus “Tom”) of Cattle and Cane played 45 minutes of tracks taken mostly from their debut album “Home”. It was a mellow and smooth Walkabouts alt-country feel rather than the Go-Betweens indie you might expect from the namecheck. Probably because the band are (almost) all related, the playing is tight, and the banter mostly consisted of insulting each other. Plus an apology half way through for not playing any Oasis covers which is becoming a feature of their gigs.
The set opened with a number of strong tracks. Kicking off with “Birdsong” with its guitar twang, the template of driving rhythm and wistful vocals is set out. But it’s when keyboardist Helen starts to provide a 2nd lead vocal when the music takes flight – especially on “Skies”. When that dual male / female vocal interplay hits, it feels that’s what the Cattle and Cane sound should be.
Throughout, I think the band’s strength is their unity – it’s immediately apparent on stage, and it makes for an affecting and authentic live performance, unusual for a band on their first album and first headline tour. Undisputed highlight with the crowd was the barely accompanied We Were Children, dealing with the death of a close friend, this track was obviously affecting for the band. It drew the loudest response, despite being the least typical track of the night. More so for the emotional weight it obviously brings.
Extra credit too for keeping the sound stripped back, these songs sound great played simply without the messing about with stuff like Autoharps and Slide Guitars that is a personal bugbear in Americana.
And almost before you know it, set closer and debut single Come Home breezes through – decent enough song, but without the weight or impact of some that went earlier, and an odd choice for an end if you ask me. Guys, you need to go out and write some kind of swirling guitar shredding 6 minute epic about sunsets and doomed relationships under a wide open sky. No room for any encore, and then straight out of the Leadmill smoke into the clear Sheffield night. Keep an eye on Cattle and Cane, I expect them to be making a lot of friends at festivals next year with live performances like this.
Cattle and Cane are on tour throughout October and again in February 2016