Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Memories of 2017 gigs #8

Nadine Shah
The Globe, Cardiff – 15 October 2017
Support: Life

On the eve of a hurricane hitting the British Isles, I was getting blown away in a small live music venue in Cardiff by one of the most powerful performances I’ve seen in recent times. Nadine Shah’s new album ‘Holiday Destination’ has become my favourite record of 2017. Tackling such themes as immigration, the refugee crisis and mental health, it’s an often uncomfortable listen, but incredibly forceful and moving at the same time. Its transformation to the live setting is nothing short of astonishing.

First off, a few words about the support band. Life don’t have a name that you can Google all too easily but if you’re searching for a new band with a bit of an edge in these dark times instead of the increasing torrent of insipid electro-pop dross, I think you may find solace in this quartet from Hull. To describe Life simply as a punk band is to do them a disservice, but their energy and attitude evokes a certain spirit that often emerges in troubled times. While their singer displays characteristics of a Jarvis Cocker bent, he can also bellow messages of anger, frustration and, most welcomingly, hope.  There were certainly a few memorable moments in their set and I, along with I suspect a few others, will be checking out their self-released album ‘Popular Music’. In fact, I spotted a guy I work with, who was also in attendance, clutching a vinyl copy at the end of the night.

Nadine Shah first came to my attention a couple of years ago when singles from her last album ‘Fast Food’ were getting regular plays on 6 Music. By contrast, I haven’t heard a single tune from ‘Holiday Destination’ aired by said station this year. That’s tragic. Not only do we need its messages more than ever right now, we also need to hear more music of such remarkable quality on our radios. It really is an extraordinary album, and we were treated to an opening salvo of its first three tracks tonight. The addition of the sax to Nadine’s sound is an interesting move, but it serves to accentuate the most menacing aspects of some of these songs.

‘Holiday Destination’ is a very rhythmic, percussive-sounding record that translates wonderfully to the live setting. As a result, the earlier songs that were aired were reinterpreted to fit this sound. They sounded all the better for it. Aching Bones and Runaway sounded fresh and reinvigorated, while Stealing Cars and Fool sit comfortably with the brooding, dark nature of the new songs. Nadine’s deep, tremulous voice rounds off the ominous, yet emotive feel of the whole set. Yet, when she speaks to the audience, it’s like the sun comes out.

You see, for all the darkness in her music, Nadine is actually very funny. There’s something about people from the north-east and their wit. Quick and incisive, Nadine lightens the mood with her tales of “Simpsons heckling” during Radiohead at Glastonbury and writing Fool about “a lovely, lovely fella” who she almost immediately reveals is actually a “total cunt”. She also informs us that ‘Holiday Destination’’s closing track Jolly Sailor was number one in the iTunes chart in Lithuania. “I don’t know what that’s about,” she muses. “I’ve got an ex-boyfriend there but he definitely hasn’t been buying it, cos he fuckin’ hates me.”

Yet when it comes back to her songs, the emotion and sheer passion comes flooding out. Speaking as a second-generation immigrant, she extols the virtues of immigration and being able to draw on different cultures to become a richer person, soaking up the bigotry and violence that often accompanies it. She speaks from experience, adding: “Anyone who reckons immigration is a bad thing is a fucking idiot.” That gets one of the biggest cheers of the night. The band then launches into Out The Way, one of the most rousing, yet abrasive songs of the year, and without a doubt my fave. It damn near set the place alight! The evening’s final song, new single Mother Fighter, about a Syrian refugee who goes back to her homeland to help fight for its freedom and provide a safe future for her family, is clearly one of the songs Nadine feels most strongly about. She gave an impassioned speech about the plight of refugees around the world and the seemingly non-existent coverage of the issue in our media. It looked for a moment like she was going to break down in tears as she spoke. The performance of the song was stunning and heartfelt.

In this day and age, when everyone wants everything quick, cheap and disposable, it’s becoming increasingly rare to find an artist who is so genuine and powerful as Nadine Shah. Making the album of the year is one thing, but to be so utterly convincing on stage, the hardest place to hide of all, is another entirely. A “wow!” escaped my lips at the end of the show. That hasn’t happened in some time.


  1. Sounds like a cracking night Robster

  2. Her album is getting higher and higher in my wish list

  3. Mentioned earlier that I got the the album for Xmas on the back of some solid recommendations.....if it had been one that fell the wrong side of the line, then rest assured it would have been purchaed on the back of this great review.