My first thought was if anyone was going to suffer from strained vocal chords it would be the loquacious Ms. Nash. But, having cooled off with a 99 Flake on Brighton sea front, I understood the need to protect the Queen Bee.
This isn’t the girl we used to know. Her latest album, My Best Friend is You, ditches much of the quaint, quirky pop of her debut, Made of Bricks, which was influenced as much by Cath Kidston as Regina Spektor. Instead, the new record is a heady broth of punk and 60s girlgroup, produced by the masterful hand of Bernard Butler.
Tonight, the punk influence cannot be contained. Barely sitting at her piano, much of the time Nash is stood defiantly with a guitar or prowling menacingly around the stage, microphone in hand. Opener I Just Love You More is Nash at her unhinged, psychotic best and it’s instantly clear that she has been listening to a lot of Riot Grrl records and taking plenty of notes.
Backed by a group who look like they are having the time of their lives, the sound is considerably beefed up. Mariella jitters fiercely, Don’t You Want to Share the Guilt spins out of control and Do-Wah-Doo harnesses the melodramatic sweep of 60s pop/soul. She’s at her angriest when reciting the intro to Mansion Song. A spitting, spluttering attack on dumb groupies whose sole ambition is to sleep with boys in bands (“I wanna be fucked and then rolled over, ‘cause I’m an independent woman of the 21st century"), Nash builds up a ferocious head of steam which is as scary as it is impressive.
The hits naturally get the most hysterical responses from a crowd made largely up of charity-chic teenage girls, giddy that their goddess is in front of them. Teasingly, Nash plays the delicate opening chords to Foundations and Mouthwash before launching into them full throttle.
Boyfriend Ryan Jarman of the Cribs is in the crowd and you wonder what he makes of it all. At one point Nash has a protracted conversation with a man in the crowd who offers a marriage proposal. “But we don’t even know each other,” says Nash. “And, besides, I’ve got a lovely boyfriend, thank you very much.”
During her encore Nash goes off on one about how more people should start bands. She is promoting her latest project, the Rock and Roll After-School Music Club, encouraging girls to write songs. These tangents are commonplace throughout the show and when they happen that throat of hers seems to be in fine fettle as words come tumbling out of her mouth at a rate of knots.
Nash has never been a wallflower but tonight it’s a surprise how much she has changed from the cockney sparrer sitting behind a piano in a floral dress to a mean, often visceral, towering woman who is mining her anger from somewhere else. I certainly wouldn’t want to mess with her.
I Just Love You More
Kiss That Grrl
Take Me To a Higher Plane
Don’t You Want to Share the Guilt?
I hate Seagulls
I’ve Got a Secret
Review/photo by Jack Prescott