During the summer months this year, Nerina Pallot’s first two albums held a significant space in the musical landscape of my car, having discovered that they are perfect ‘windows down, driving along the motorway, singing your heart out’ music. During these moments of transportation reverie, it’s often struck me how Nerina seems a natural musical descendent of one of my very favourite singers, Kate Bush. It’s not the British female singer/songwriter tag, nor the piano-playing, nor the high notes, but something in her unusual delivery, something in the distinctly feminine strength of her lyrical labyrinth, something not quite describable but only felt, as one moves through the rooms of her songs, preoccupied with love, death, children, god, war and hope.
Tonight’s show takes place in the architectural splendour of Islington’s Union Chapel. The venue’s pews are packed and the air is misty through the low lights, creating a sense of mystery, despite the crowd clearly being dominated by dedicated fans with a good idea of what’s ahead.
A barefoot Nerina takes to the stage in a dark, glittery evening dress and is accompanied by a string quartet and three backing singers, in addition to the more traditional drums, bass and two guitar support.
Despite warning us that she’ll be playing lots of newer songs, a good selection of tracks from older albums receive an airing, including All Bets Are Off, Grace and This Will Be Our Year (from 2011’s Year Of The Wolf) and Idaho, Geek Love and Mr King (from 2005’s Fires).
The anti-war single Everybody’s Gone To War is given a sparse and impactful treatment, stripped down to just the string quartet accompanying the singer, whilst the feminist flag in the ground If I Had A Girl gets the audience, if not to their feet in this sacred space, at least clapping along.
Nerina chats warmly and frankly to her audience between songs. She explains that her decision to release an EP every month during 2014 was somewhat inspired by alcohol. Indeed, it is this monthly feat of songwriting, recording and organisation that spawns some of the stand out tracks of the evening. The delicate despair of Boy On A Bus, which she describes as being written after a local suicide of a teenager, and the dark, bluesy refrain of Happy Day, a track she cheerfully admits is the result of wanting to write a funeral song, inspired by her determination not to have Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On or Robbie Williams’ Angels played at her funeral. She pauses and then laughs: “You don’t come to my gigs for cheer, do you?”.
As the set moves towards its close she thanks the audience for “letting me do what I do and coming to see me” and credits her husband, Andy Chatterley, as her hero and a driving force in keeping her going. “Left to my own devices I’d be perfecting Nigella Lawson recipes and watching box sets,” she claims.
The set ends with the exuberant Put Your Hands Up, which her congregation obediently do.
Quickly brought back for an encore, she sits at the keyboard and rolls out the beautiful single Sophia. To end the show, she says she’ll do something she never normally does and begins describing her indebtedness to one particular artist – her “musical mother”, whom she saw play this year and says she feels choked up just talking about it. She proceeds to play Moments of Pleasure, by none other than Kate Bush. I can’t help but smile…
Review and Photography by Imelda Michalczyk. Nerina Pallot at Union Chapel Friday 24th October 2014. Imelda has her own website here: www.rebeladelica.com