Nadine Shah

Nadine Shah


Due to the typically dismal weather, beer gardens are in short supply in Manchester. On the rare occasion like tonight where the sun still shines gloriously at gone half seven, every flimsy metal table outside a bar is keenly occupied. The smartest amongst those are supping up quickly to get into the inevitable sauna-like conditions of The Deaf Institute because, as usual, it’s host to the hottest show in town.

Sunderland born Nadine Shah is in town to promote her marvellous new record Fast Food. Working again with producer Ben Hillier (who counts Elbow, Blur and Depeche Mode among his previous credits), Shah has released another stunning album which is darker than a Scandinavian mini-series and certain to trouble the end of year polls. Add to this an exquisite guest slot on Ghostpoet’s latest effort and you get the feeling that 2015 could belong to the Wearsider.

It’s a North East double whammy this evening, with Newcastle-based Retriever joining the tour for three dates. Musically they’re much more direct than the headline act, trading in raw rock’n’roll rather than gothic balladry.

The sound is familiar but this is far from pastiche; rather borne from a love of all the right things. Hooky-influenced bass lines lead the charge on almost every song, with Garth Purver’s high fretwork, reminiscent of early Interpol, provides just a glimmer of light, enough for wife Jackie’s glossy melodies to shine. A storming thirty minute set leaves an unsuspecting crowd wanting more.

The wait between acts feels like an age, but once Nadine and her band are onstage the whole room is awestruck.

‘Living’ is the perfect opener. The song clatters into existence like latter day Radiohead and doesn’t let up; only a vocal as beguiling as Shah’s could dominate it. Her voice is remarkable; velvet smooth yet chilling, and the sincerity with which she tackles troubling themes is majestic.

New album title track shares the same brooding atmospherics as early Doves material, while ‘Fool’, laced with spiky guitars and biting lyrics, is outstanding drawing the main set to a close.

Sandwiched between cuts from ‘Fast Food’ is a four song run from debut album Love Your Dum and Mad. Despite the witty title, it’s an incredibly moving affair dealing with the suicides of two ex-boyfriends. Such delicate subject matter might be too much for many a singer, but here Nadine thrives on aching pain, her low purr beautiful throughout.

While the band tune up (and often well after) Nadine shows her true personality to be every bit as joyous as the gorgeous spring sun. Blaming the gin on more than one occasion, the patter between songs is wonderful. Contrasting sharply to the mood of the songs, Shah is relaxed and utterly charming. Be it complimenting friends on new hairdos or self-deprecation of her own storytelling, the audience hangs on every word.

As if having never cracked a smile, the transition back to brooding chanteuse is seamless. Witnessing such endearing character makes the chilling pain within the songs resonate even further. Its little wonder that once the show draws to a close almost half the room head to the merch stand looking for records and autographs, wit and wisdom.

“Check your pulse when I speak” Shah demands in latest single ‘Stealing Cars’, I’m not sure about anyone’s pulse, but the hairs of every neck in the room are surely on end.

Captivating at every turn, watching Nadine Shah is a treasure to behold.

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Joseph Curran

Features Editor and gig reviewer