Live review: Nadine Shah

Nadine Shah transfixed the audience at The Lexington.

Nadine Shah transfixed the audience at The Lexington. - Credit: Archant

One of the voices of 2013 delivers an impassioned set at her album launch gig upstairs at The Lexington.

With most of the audience weaned on her two critically-acclaimed EPs and nothing else, it must have been a nerve-wracking wait for Nadine Shah ahead of tonight’s launch gig for her debut LP Love Your Dum And Mad.

For those yet to hear, former jazz singer Shah possesses a lightly-smoked voice with a rare depth and power, and a flair for penning lean but evocative vignettes, loaded with meaning and subtext.

She summons primal lustre, baleful heartache and wizened regret through a clutch of characters on her debut, enriched by an ensemble band all here tonight, including clarinet and French horn.

She takes to the stage and for a brief spell looks nervously smiley, delivering repeated thank-yous. Surely this 25-year-old, singing professionally since her teens, isn’t going to crumble?

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Hell, no. As the lonesome piano strain of Used It All echoes across the small room, Shah fixes her gaze in the middle-distance and seemingly slips into the world she creates, lost in the first of many tortured tales.

Her entire album gets an outing tonight, and almost all of it sounds even better live. While the band are clearly accomplished, this is chiefly down to Shah’s delivery.

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Dressed all in black and standing centre-stage behind a huge electric piano, there’s nothing to distract from her piercing gaze as she invests herself completely in each song.

From the contented, mellifluous langour of All I Want – which tonight is cut short to end on her stunning vibrato – to the defiant conviction crossing her face during a glowering rendition of Dreary Town, to her animated delivery of new single To Be A Young Man, her commitment in the flesh is refreshing and often electrifying.

You know she means it when she tells the blinkered recipient in Dreary Town: “I’m not going to follow you to the ground/When there’s greener pastures waiting to be found.”

And found them she has. The bassline of Floating, one of several songs referencing mental illness, takes on a sultry, animalistic lope, Remember punctuates the set with floor-shaking, dramatic bass rumble, and the night’s emotional tumult builds towards a thumping, valedictory rendition of Runaway, tonight a cauldron of simmering vitriol.

Invigorating on record, live Love Your Dum And Mad is transfixing.

And that’s before her stunning cover of Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me A River wraps up the show with a series of soaring, aching notes that reverberate around the Lexington with spine-tingling power.

Her music enveloped the room, her performance was mesmerising, and by the end of the show you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. A star is born.

5/5 stars

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