Nash makes Paradise crowd “Merry Happy”

A review of Kate Nash at the Paradise Rock Club on April 20, 2008

, Staff

Moments before Kate Nash stepped on stage to perform for a sold-out crowd at the Paradise on Monday night, a stagehand placed an inhaler on her keyboard. It seems fitting that the Harrow, England native would be an asthmatic—someone who was the fastest kid on the playground couldn’t write lyrics like hers. And from the instant Nash sat down at the keyboard and began playing, it became clear that, despite having dysfunctional bronchial tubes, she leaves most performers in the dust.

After the stagehand had finished his, ahem, medicinal work (he also set two vodka cranberries on the floor next to the keyboard) the lights dimmed and the bright pink “Kate Nash” neon sign was illuminated behind the drum kit. The Supremes’ “Stop in the Name of Love” played in its entirety (again, so fitting) before Nash bounced on stage in what can only be described as a sparkling gold, baggy shorts once piece.

Nash kicked off the show with “Pumpkin Soup,” the latest single from her debut album Made of Bricks. Once the 20-year-old played the first few bars of the lust song, two things were obvious; She can really sing and play as well as she does on her album, and she was going to do it at twice the speed.

She continued on with “Shit Song” and belted its refrain, “Darling, don’t give me shit ‘cos I know that you’re full of it.” Being mistreated by boyfriends—and retaliating against them—is a theme throughout Nash’s album. Like her fellow British pop tart Lily Allen, Nash isn’t afraid to tell off the boys that have done her wrong. “I’ll leave you there ‘til the morning / and I purposely won’t turn the heating on / And dear god I hope I’m not stuck with this one” she pleads with a thick North London accent in “Foundations.”

Allen, who is also known for singing with a working class accent, put Nash on the music map this past summer in England after she linked to the then-unknown artist’s songs on her MySpace page. Nash is generally quick to point out, however, that while she is grateful to Allen for pushing her into the spotlight, her talent has been praised on its own accord. Nash plays the piano and guitar in addition to writing all of her songs.

After warning the crowd that a painful blister on her finger might inhibit her guitar playing, Nash picked up her acoustic and proved herself wrong. She began a five-song guitar set with the fan favorite “Birds.” Once the crazed sing-along ended, Nash cheekily informed the crowd, “This song is kinda quiet, so shut up.” The hushed fans and muted guitar chords put the spotlight on Nash’s rich voice as she sang “The Nicest Thing.” The mellow song is lost among the quirky and upbeat tracks that make up Nash’s album, but she seems to have found the perfect medium for it in concert.

That was the last time the crowd got to catch its breath, because Nash had saved all of the high-energy songs for the latter half of the 90-minute set. Each song grew in momentum as she played “Skeleton Song,” “Mariella,” and “Mouthwash.” It was a wonder that Nash stayed seated on her piano bench as she trashed about and kicked her jazz shoe-clad feet. Her fingers ran up and down the keyboard so quickly that they were a flesh-colored blur.

After the crowd rejoiced in a standard performance of her stateside breakthrough hit, “Foundations,” Nash and her band left the stage. They quickly regrouped and returned to play three final songs, including “Model Behaviour,” which ended with Nash shrieking into the microphone while jumping about like a hardcore rocker—not bad for an indie singer-songwriter. As Nash played out the show with an equally amped-up “Merry Happy,” I was no longer questioning the placement of her inhaler.

The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players opened the show. The band—which consists of a dad/guitarist/lead vocalists, mom/slide projector manager, and teenage daughter/drummer/back-up vocalist—is as off-beat as its name suggests. They also happen to be the only opening act that has ever kept my attention throughout the entire 30-minute set. The Trachtenburgs collect vintage slides from dead strangers, write songs about them, and show those slides on a screen during their act. The band’s combination of comedy and kookiness made them a surprising, but appropriate opening act for Nash.

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