It’s Friday night in Amsterdam, and there is a scrum of people waiting to get in to the Paradiso. Inside this converted church, the stage is lit by a wash of blue light as Kitty, Daisy & Lewis Durham take the stage, accompanied as always by Ma and Pa Durham but also – perhaps somewhat incongruously – by a string quartet, all of whom are wearing white. Not what I expected from a band whose early shows were so purist in their pursuit of the rockabilly sound, who are so devoted to this authenticity that all three of their albums were not only recorded at home on entirely vintage equipment, but were even cut at their dad’s vinyl pressing plant.
Tonight’s set shows just how far these three precocious north London siblings have come – both as musicians and performers. Multi-instrumentalists one and all, they’ve always shown themselves to be talented artists, but now they have the confidence and charisma to really hold a crowd’s attention as well. Switching and swapping instruments on near enough every song, all three of them get their chance in the spotlight, and clearly love every minute of it. Youngest sibling Kitty is first on stage, basking in the attention from an audience who are near-hysterical before they’ve even heard a note.
Both Kitty and big sister Daisy are clad in the skintight, glamrock jump suits that now seem to be their regular uniform, worn with bad-ass attitude to match. The new look is perhaps the most obvious physical representation of the transformation that their music has undergone in the last few years, moving on from the lovingly rendered rockabilly covers to original material that boasts the influence of everything from skiffle to blues, ska to funk; Kitty’s first vocal outing of the night is on ‘Feeling Of Wonder’, the introduction of which bears an uncanny resemblance to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’.
Soon Lewis steps up to take the lead on recent single ‘Baby Bye Bye’, a lolloping, skiffley single that is also the subject of their first ever music video (as he seems to take great pride in informing us). It’s followed by a rockabilly stomper with Kitty wailing away on the harmonica, and they barely pause for breath before welcoming guest saxophonist Tan Tan for several songs. Eldest sibling Daisy emerges to take lead vocals, sounding like a cross between Winehouse and Paloma Faith; hers is the transformation that’s the most exciting to watch.
Lewis is growing into his role as the slick bedrock of the band, and Kitty is clearly having a wail of a time living the touring life, while still retaining a touch the ingénue. But Daisy seems to have become a bit of a force of nature; when she launches in to ‘No Action’ she attacks every word as if she is going into battle, and every toss of the hair or flick of the wrist is full of passion.
It’s an exciting set from start to finish, made all the more so by the almost feverish reaction they’re getting from an Amsterdam crowd keen to make the most of their Friday night. As the main set wears on we’re treated to some particular highlights from most recent album, The Third, including a bit of a foray into country on ‘Whiskey’, Kitty’s ode to her favourite drink (as she demands of the crowd, ‘What d’you like drinking? D’you like whiskey? Well, why didn’t you say so?’). Finally they close on a gorgeous rendition of ‘Developer’s Disease’, a nostalgic paean to the passing of London’s musical landmarks that leaves this particular Hackney girl feeling more than a little wistful for home.
But they’re still not finished there, and before long they’re launching into an encore of rockabilly covers that segue into extended instrumentals, in which they prove once and for all how far they’ve come. (Also I must just say that watching Kitty break off in order to check her lipstick in the side of her harmonica was one of my favourite moments of the night.) Eventually they bid the band (and Ma and Pa) farewell and the stage is left with just these three siblings and a whole heap of talent. Finally they launch into old favourite ‘Mean Son Of A Gun’, which sounds tougher and gutsier than I’ve ever heard it. A nice look back to where they came from, and a pretty exciting hint of what’s still to come.