If our life was a movie and needed a soundtrack, we’d want it to be only of Kat Edmonson’s songs. The petite singer has a way of commanding the stage but making it feel intimate, singing songs that could fit into our everyday lives. Ones we’d whistle to while cooking dinner or skip to after a great first date or cry to on our bathroom floor after a giant heartbreak.
Prior to Edmonson taking the stage at the Cistern, the night was heavy, sticky with humidity. But as soon as the first notes rang out, we couldn’t tell you if it was 90 degrees or 70. We got lost in her presence.
The songstress’ voice was reminiscent of a time gone by, but it wasn’t stale or forced. And her range was surprising — hitting both high and low notes without straining. Sitting next to strangers, we felt as if she was singing just to us.
And Edmonson is no stranger to Charleston either, having spent a year at College of Charleston. She viewed it as a homecoming and shared her memories of Charleston: how she fell in love with its charm, studied on the Cistern, and lived on Coming Street. And on Thursday night, Charleston did not disappoint in the charm department. The stage sat perched atop the cistern, bathed in purple and blue lights that lit up Randolph Hall and the large oak trees covered in Spanish moss. Combined with Edmonson’s magical voice, the whole scene was simply breathtaking.
The evening felt as if it could have been an addition to an Austin City Limits taping, Charleston-style. She managed to combine storytelling with her songs seamlessly, and — she probably hates this — she’s just so cute, we left wanting to be her friend. Telling stories of being starstruck at Jimmie Vaughn’s birthday party by Eric Clapton or how she would perform for anyone who entered her house as a child, even the electrician and the plumber, she was down-to-earth but not fake. She seemed sincere in everything she did.
Her song lineup was also marvelous. Going from the foot-tapping — seriously the row behind us had major happy feet — “Champagne” about an over-indulgent night in New York that led to a wretched following day to the heartbreaking “Hopelessly Blue,” her songs ran the gamut of emotions. She’s been compared to Billie Holiday, and we see that. There was also a touch of Zooey Deschanel and Norah Jones in her voice. (Incidentally, Edmonson performed alongside Jones for an Austin City Limits performance.) But comparisons aren’t fair; she deserves for her name to stand alone.
Backed by a superb band with Aaron Thurston on drums, Vicente Archer on standup bass, Matt Ray on piano, and Steve Elliot on guitar, she could be seen bopping her head to their sounds or taking a deep breath when the song was emotionally heavy. During the middle part of the show, Edmonson relieved her band and stayed on stage with just Elliot. The two had recently completed a tour across Europe, and “they had it down,” she promised. And they did.
There wasn’t a miscue in the whole evening — or if there was, we couldn’t tell you about. The performance lasted just under 90 minutes, but it flew by. As everyone made their way to the exit, we wanted to stay under the oak trees and continued to be serenaded.