Natalie Prass is class. It is something she proves over and over again tonight. Last here in September 2015, she bounds back onto the Brudenell stage in her salmon pink dress with matching tie – bought from Amazon, she later tells us, given the paucity of decent stores in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia – all wreathed in smiles and exuding such great positivity and bonhomie. And she really goes for it.
This is the opening night of Natalie Prass’s 18-date tour of Europe and she is in a buoyant mood. The Future and the Past tour takes its name from the title of Prass’s second album, released in June three years after her eponymous debut. Building upon its predecessor’s glorious retro-futuristic groove, embracing influences as seemingly disparate as Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan, tropicália and Karen Carpenter (to whom she bears a striking resemblance both in her physical appearance and the melodic, soulful tenor of her voice), The Future and the Past album is a stunning amalgam of contrasting musical eras.
Natalie Prass and her excellent four-piece band – Colin Kilelan (guitar), for whom this is his first ever live outing with Prass, Brandon Lane (bass), playing what is only his third or fourth show with her, Jacob Ungerleider (keyboards) and Eric Slick (drums) – knock three songs from the new album straight off the bat in what is as powerful and cheerfully liberating a start to any live performance I have heard this, or any other year for that matter.
The Prince-like ‘Oh My’, ‘The Fire’ and ‘Hot For The Mountain’ – which gives us a first, delicious, defiant taste of Prass’s individual take on Brazilian pop music and this is long before she gratefully receives that country’s flag from a young woman in the crowd in an act that precipitates a delightful and wholly impromptu romp through ‘Jass’ – are irresistible. In between times, we get a double-handful of eight other stunning tunes, drawn equally from her two albums to date, each and every one fusing elements of 80’s soul, R&B, jazz, funk and genuine innovation.
And then Natalie Prass takes it right down, returning with just Jacob Ungerleider – and playfully sending the rest of the band back to the dressing room in the process – to accompany her on a beautiful, valedictory ‘It Is You’.
Support for the entire tour comes courtesy of H.C. McEntire. An inspired choice, the North Carolinian country band Mount Mariah’s frontwoman appears here with only her Supro guitar for company. But she also possesses a voice bigger than the southern state from where she hails. And stripped of much of their usual musical accompaniment, all of the raw, emotionally heartbreaking honesty of her words can be heard to even greater poignant effect.
Primarily performing material taken from her solo debut album Lionheart – though she does play a couple of Mount Mariah songs, the stunning ‘Davis Square’ as well as set-closer ‘Miracle Temple Holiness’ – H.C. McEntire impresses as one of the great voices of modern country music and contributes to what has undoubtedly been the overall gig of the year thus far.
Photos: Simon Godley
More photos of H.C. McEntire at Brudenell Social Club are HERE
And more photos of Natalie Prass at Brudenell Social Club are HERE