Nerina Pallot at Union Chapel
This was the second time I’ve been to a gig in a church. And from these experiences I’ve learnt two things. Firstly, that the acoustics are outstanding in them. But also that pews are rather uncomfortable. Yet this did not matter in the slightest last night when Nerina Pallot took to the stage. Any moans about the seating were completely irrelevant. Her voice would have cured any back pains anyone may have had.
As I entered this interesting venue, I was aware that tonight was going to be a bit different to the rest of Nerina’s tour dates. She was to have a band and choir on stage with her. Something I discovered after having been tempted by the video of the rehearsals for the show. What I did not know, however, was that there was to be another special guest joining Nerina on stage.
To support her were a duo called Braxton Hix (not to be confused with the premature contractions) whose voices suited the venue rather well with their almost folk-like music s using the acoustics to their advantage. They weren’t the most professional band, having written their setlist on a paper plate and only bringing along twenty CD’s to sell, but I think that this added to their charm. The band was made up of a male on guitar and vocals, and a woman on vocals. The main thing you need to know about this band is that either they are a couple, or the woman has spent hours perfecting her loving stare at the guy as some part of a stage act. It almost felt awkward at times, as though you were intruding on a private serenading session. But I would definitely recommend you checking them out if you’re into acoustic/folk music.
And now onto Nerina. Well, not just Nerina. This was Nerina, a drummer, a guitarist, a strings section, a horn section and a chorus. This was nothing like my previous experiences of Nerina’s live shows. Opening with solo performances of God of Small Things and If I Know You, she sat at her piano and blissfully played for us. Her voice was amazing, as expected, and it wasn’t long before she broke into the amusing banter between songs that makes her so endearing.
Idaho and Mr King followed at the same haunting calibre of music. These slower songs felt particularly powerful in the settings. Not that the more uptempo songs weren’t impressive too: the debut single from her latest album, Real Late Starter, was played beautifully. The live performance of Nickindia made me realise it’s true beauty. I like the album version, but seeing it played right in front of me made it have far more impact.
It was around this stage in the show that I noticed that her drummer kept shaking a banana along with his shaker. I’m no percussion genius and would love to know why the fruit was used…
As with Nerina’s normal musings, she amused us in her introduction to the as yet unrecorded, Put Your Hands Up. Describing it as being “camper than Christmas”, I felt I had to agree with her that it was a bit Eurovision-esque. If it were to be overly edited with electro beats it could win it for us. But I just can’t quite see Nerina entering Eurovision. The song worked live because you can here the natural vocals shine through, if it developed into the next Cheeky Girls hit I’d be slightly more worried.
Next up came a cover of Rickie Lee Jones. Skeletons is the reason that Nerina’s latest EP is titled Skeleton EP and she’s happy to admit that it’s a cover and how she wishes she’d written it herself.
Three songs from her new album followed (It Starts, Cigarette and When Did I Become Such A Bitch). The middle of those three worked hauntingly well with a choir, whilst the full band performance of the latter, accompanied by the banter about the, perhaps factual, nature of the title kept the audience entertained.
A solo performance of Everybody’s Gone To War was opted for, which intrigued me as I own a strings version and know it sounds beautiful but seeing just Nerina and her guitar strum their way through it was just as impressive. Human was then performed with Nerina and a male vocal, having these two more low-key performances could have been decided to create a more impactful entrance for the artist who was next to join Nerina on stage.
Introducing her as “really wonderful and really special and so talented” (oh, and “This week’s number one”) Diana Vickers joined Nerina and the band to perform the Nerina penned track Put It Back Together Again. Having listened to this song several times on Diana’s myspace the night before the performance I have to credit the live performance as being far more impressive. Diana’s voice is very expressive and works well to evoke the emotion that Nerina clearly wrote into the song. If you want to witness this performance with your own eyes you’ll have to check it out on this YouTube video, which was kindly uploaded later in the evening.
The full band performance of my favourite song, Geek Love, was made all the more amazing by Nerina introducing it as “a song about shagging”. I’ve never heard the song performed so well as it was then. It was truly beautiful.
The final song before Nerina departed the stage was God. It’s a song from Dear Frustrated Superstar that I was always particularly fond of. Nerina admitted she’d seldom played it live because she wanted it to sound “as it was meant to”. I can understand why she allowed for it to be performed last night. The band and choir worked in harmony to produce a beautiful song.
After a long clapping and whooping session (not that there wasn’t this after every song) Nerina returned to the stage with just the strings section to perform My Last Tango and then end with her normal final piano masterpiece: Sophia. Both piano based songs left the audience feeling dazed by everything we’d witnessed throughout the show and wanting more. It’d been three years since my last Nerina show but I’m now certain it won’t be anywhere near that long before I next get to be a part of something so outstanding.
Being the lovely lady she is, Nerina hung around after the gig for a signing and I got my two lovely new EP’s signed “To Cat”. Nerina questioned whether I wanted them both signed to me and we concluded that it is good to be selfish in life and so yes I did. She also complimented my dress making me feel less of an idiot walking around Islington in a less than casual dress.
I was not the biggest Nerina fan in that room (not that you’d know it from the amount of positive adjectives in this review) but even the ‘Die-hards’ seemed to think that it was one of the best Nerina performances they’d ever seen. I love that Nerina has such a tight fanbase. Everyone was willing to talk to oneanother and become friends throughout the evening (or afternoon for those who arrived as early as one!)
There’s little else to add (I have written over 1200 words already!) than to leave you with one word to describe the show and it’s remarkably long setlist: Outstanding.
(Photos to follow!)
April 28th 2010