Kate Nash displays odd dichotomy at First Ave

Categories: Concert Review
Photos by Steve Cohen
At the beginning of Wednesday's show at a beyond-sold-out First Avenue, Kate Nash sat down at her piano and announced in her prim, British accent that she had sprained her ankle in Toronto and that she was only able to remove the brace earlier in the day. It seemed, without her actually saying it, that it might be a more subdued show; but that was far from the truth.

Nash is most easily compared to peer and friend Lily Allen, but, unlike Allen, she dials down the shock value in favor of more introspective, less off-the-cuff lyrics and a little less pop sheen to her songs. When she sings, her posh London accent is still very recognizable, and that also adds quite a bit to the songs: you're not just listening to a song, you're listening to a Kate Nash Song. She has been repeatedly lauded for her neo-soul/folky/poppy repertoire, and rightly so. Every song has it's own charm and not even one sags, drags, or seems like filler in the least. Though it sounds like it would be an odd mix -- and, to be fair, many of the songs greatly differ from each other -- they manage to hang together as a cohesive catalog. Mixing and matching her styles gave the live show an interesting texture and kept the crowd in rapt attention rather than just waiting for "the big hit," "Foundations," which came roughly three-quarters of the way through, to much cheering. At first there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the songs, but as the show wore on it seemed almost as if Nash was telling a long story with ups and downs and a few nice stopping points to take in the scenery and have a closer look at things.

Photos by Steve Cohen
But as enjoyable as the songs were, the between-song banter was abominable. There was quite a bit of complaining about the lights being too bright and she spent at least five minutes trying to quiet down the entire room to play a slow number on the guitar that should have been served as a nice easement into the show's denouement but came off as incredibly forced -- easily the low point of the night. Eventually, it seemed like this show was all about Kate Nash and how she was being perceived, and not about entertaining the audience in the least.

For all of her acclaim as being wise beyond her years musically (which is all true and well-deserved), she often came off as a spoiled child between songs and it damaged the set a lot more than banter ever should; it was like pulling the curtain back on the wizard in a way and in the end the crowd should have felt a little bit like Dorothy Gale.

See also: Steve Cohen's full slideshow from last night.

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