Nadine Shah is back. Three dates into her UK tour and having last seen her at Gateshead Town Hall some 30 months ago, she is here in Leeds tonight with a new album, a new live band and what is, essentially, a brand new sound.
Whilst the nucleus of her gothic, post-punk pop sensibility still remains it is now a sound that has been developed, refined and relocated into something that is altogether darker, deeper, denser and even more disturbing. This evolution is informed greatly by Nadine Shah’s own personal experiences – she is a second generation immigrant, something of which she is incredibly proud – but also owes much to the musicians with whom she is now working.
Nadine Shah’s band tonight comprises Neil MacColl and Daniel Crook on guitars, Pete Wareham of Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear fame playing saxophone, bass guitarist Ben Nichols and bringing up the rear on drums and the man who is Shah’s long-term collaborator, Ben Hillier. Together the five men invest the music with additional power, passion and a heightened sense of immediacy. The final product is rich and urgent. It is sophisticated. It is strangely beautiful. And it bristles with massive discomfort and meaning.
Shah opens with a triple fusillade, the first three songs from her new album, Holiday Destination. ‘Place Like This’, ‘2016’ and the record’s title track all reflect the stark and uncomfortable political themes that percolate right through her third full-length offering. Whilst the deepening refugee crisis and the highly chequered global response to this may be the catalyst to Holiday Destination’s creation, Shah’s principal message is that of seeking to humanise all that dehumanises. Through the vehicle of her words and music, she seeks to develop empathy and increase a greater understanding of difference.
Occasionally Nadine Shah steps outside of herself tonight and worries that her message may be lapsing into that of the sermon. But to those who are here in the Brudenell, she is clearly pushing at an open door of realisation and the hardened spirit of her meaning merely strengthens our resolve to speak out against injustice in general and, in this instance, anti-immigration in particular.
For all of the performance’s great intensity and the deeply unsettling significance of Nadine Shah’s central address, it is a show that is peppered with equally great moments of levity. Before launching into the concluding ‘Mother Fighter’ – expressed evocatively through the eyes of Syrian activist, revolutionary, and mother Raghda – Nadine Shah says “Ee, I’m a sweaty bastard. I’m knackered and I’m hungry”. In these few words, Nadine Shah appears to bottle her very own essence. She is still at heart the Geordie girl-next-door coming to the end of a fantastic night out in Newcastle’s Bigg Market whilst simultaneously bringing to us a message of love and hope with what is some of the most beautiful and powerful music that is around today.
Photo credit: Simon Godley
More photos from this show can be found HERE