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1 October 2003

Bleeding UK Tour
London, The Spitz

Let It Fall

Review by Alexis Petridis

4/5 stars

"The music industry hates me," chuckles Carina Round, during a lull between songs. It gets a big laugh from an audience liberally sprinkled with music industry types, some of whom look as if they can't quite believe their eyes. Rather than a figure to despise, Round may well be precisely what they have been looking for. Ever since David Gray's multi-platinum success proved there was life in the singer-songwriter genre, major record labels have been looking for some kind of female equivalent. In the past couple of years, they have thrown money at a vast army of bambi-eyed songbirds, to no avail. Each one singularly failed to set the charts alight.

Wolverhampton-born Carina Round seemed to slip through the net, despite being young, beautiful, possessed of a remarkable voice and an intriguing line in emotionally raw songwriting. Instead, she has been quietly releasing her own albums and gaining celebrity endorsements. When she supported Ryan Adams, the alt-country star apparently burst into her dressing room and demanded they write a song together.

Round is far removed from the stereotypical image of the female singer-songwriter as lank-haired, Joni Mitchell-inspired, mellifluous but slightly drippy. Songs such as the current single Into My Blood are both strikingly visceral and strikingly original. The melodies twist and turn unexpectedly, the backing bursts into noisy crescendos, her voice swoops from a gentle bluesy slink into a howl with which you could strip wallpaper.

In addition, her onstage persona is so unpackaged, so devoid of spin, as to seem faintly disconcerting. She has a line in inscrutable banter - "I'm sorry you've had to look at my ass all night," she announces at one point. Her finale involves a bizarre cover of The Stooges' I Wanna Be Your Dog, during which Round wildly flaps her arms about and unleashes a series of terrifying screams, actions that somewhat undercut the song's aura of sleazy hedonism. She staggers off stage right, walks straight into one of her backing musicians and ends up bashing her head against a guitar. There's a moment of stunned silence, then a yell of approval from the audience. Tonight at least, the music industry loves her

Originally online at The Guardian website