Kate Nash with Black Kids
Apollo Theatre, Manchester
Tuesday, March 4th 2008
Those who arrived early to the Apollo tonight can’t fail to have been enchanted by Black Kids. Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, the upbeat fivepiece have been making waves in the UK with their synth-heavy, soul-inspired sound, and rightly so.
They deal with the atrocious Apollo sound masterfully - what is it about support bands here and below-par sound quality? - and their brilliant basslines have probably got Prince hobbling round his palatial abode wondering who’s been breaking in to steal his mojo. Vocalist/guitarist Reggie Youngblood is a charismatic chap, repeatedly twirling his guitar lead between hooks and singing with genuine character. Black Kids are an entertaining band with catchy tunes and a great live presence, I’d thoroughly recommend you catch them on their UK headlining tour this summer.
Headliner Kate Nash, despite her recent triumphs at both the Brits and the NME awards, has every right to be a smite concerned about her current place at the top of the female singer-songwriter tree, what with the current glut of talented soloists emerging on the scene faster than a whippet on rollerskates, travelling down a particularly steep gradient. After a below-par debut album which was rushed out to meet the market’s insatiable demand for an instant product off the back of mass publicity, it’ll be genuinely interesting to see if she can hold her own in a venue of this size.
Much to my surprise, I’m proved wrong. After a mixtape which evokes memories of tea breaks in the sixth-form common room (especially thanks to the inclusion of The Supremes’ Stop! In The Name Of Love, broadcast so loud as to blast any specks of dust out of the venue’s sizeable PA system), Nash skips onstage with a slightly nervous smile before ensuring everyone’s attention with a commanding version of Pumpkin Soup.
Her set is equal parts frustrating and reassuring. On the good side, Nash wipes out almost all of her hyperbolic cod-mockney mannerisms live (perhaps necessary due to the demands of live music!), which does her a great deal of benefit, as the warmth in her voice which is swallowed up on her record shines through. (Alas, she doesn’t dispense with the grating “bittaaaaaaaaah” in Foundations, but it’s delivered with a sense of self-mocking parody). It’s also evident that she genuinely cares about her music - at times, you’d be mistaken for thinking she believes she’s alone with her piano on this cavernous stage.
However, aside from Pumpkin Soup, Skeleton Song and a wild rendition of Mariella which shows a feistier side to Nash, the lack of diversity in her songwriting shows at times. Admittedly, her new songs are works-in-progress, but don’t yet show that much progression from Made of Bricks, which is a shame because her skill as a live performer is definitely there to see.
You get the sense that, given time and encouragement to develop as a songwriter, Kate Nash really does have the potential to be capable of far more than mere three-minute indie-pop standards. Hopefully, she will be allowed this time to progress. Good things come to those who wait.
words: Kate Goodacre