CMAT at O2 Forum Kentish Town, 16/05/24

It's cowboy hats and tearaway clothes for the explosive rise of CMAT: “like seeing Paloma Faith on mushrooms at Brighton Pride”

It’s hard not to fall in love with Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson – or CMAT as she’s better known – when you discover her tongue-in-cheek country pop. Made up of a sea of bobbing cowgirl hats, the crowd at her sell-out London show is a testament to this, transforming the O2 Forum Kentish Town into the Irish singer-songwriter’s very own campy hoedown. 

There’s a booze-fuelled buzz in the venue, and when CMAT arrives on stage to perform ‘Nashville’ she absorbs this energy and multiplies it by 100. Breezing through ‘California’ and ‘Whatever’s Inconvenient’ – both gems from 2023’s sophomore Crazymad, For Me – it’s almost superhuman how she manages to punctuate her pristine vocals and guitar with high kicks, headbangs and the odd yelp all without breaking a sweat.

After some panto-esque crowd interaction, a Britney-style costume tearaway and an off the cuff summary of her performance style as “like seeing Paloma Faith on mushrooms at Brighton Pride”, she turns her attention to ‘Aw, Shoot!’, her latest cinematic release, and the tour debut of ‘Mayday’. 

In no small feat, she effortlessly covers ‘Wuthering Heights’ (silencing the initial trepidatious mumbles) and invites indie rock cornerstone Jonathan Grant on stage to perform their duet ‘Where Are Your Kids Tonight?’, complete with feel-good synchronised choreography.

Darting from the top of her mirrored tiered stage and into the crowd for fan-favourite ‘No More Virgos’, CMAT closes a night of flamboyant country instrumentation, irreverent humour and heartbreak-fueled singalongs in her typically rambunctious, loveable style – smashing her banjo into smitherines. If anything’s clear from tonight, it’s that she lives and breathes performing her darkly humoured music just as much as she loves making it.

CMAT plays TRNSMT in July, before supporting New Order in Cardiff this August. Find tickets here.

Photo by C Brandon/Redferns