Review and Photography by John Bentley

Geordie singer-songwriter Nadine Shah, has been making a real impact with her impassioned ‘Holiday Destination’, one of the best albums of 2017. While the album seethes with anger at the state of the world, Shah has a reputation as a very charming and personable performer who also likes the odd tipple, so we await the start of the gig with interest.

Nadine Shah, Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 03/02/18

The support act is Life, who we’ve been told in advance are unmissable. This certainly turns out to be true. Life are from Hull, 2017’s City Of Culture, and are a genuine DIY band, balancing organising gigs, recordings, etc with their day jobs. They’re a noisy punk outfit, who are witty, intelligent and political but also just downright enjoyable and entertaining. Singer Mez gyrates all over the stage and also quite a bit down on the dance floor among the audience. He has a series of moves that are a sort of combination of Jarvis Cocker and Ian Curtis. The joyful racket of guitars and drums is topped by some satirical lyrics in songs like ‘In Your Hands’. Like most of the set it’s taken from their 2017 album ‘Popular Music’.

Life, Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 03/02/18

Mez enthuses about being on tour with Nadine Shah, who he describes as one of the nicest people on the planet. And for the next hour and a half Nadine does a pretty good job of living up to that description while delivering some blisteringly powerful music with an angry social and political edge.

Life, Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 03/02/18

Tonight’s set includes all 10 songs from ‘Holiday Destination’. The album was very much an angry cry-out against the state of the world in 2017, including extreme right wing politics, racism and indifference to suffering. A bleak prospect maybe, but delivered live the fiery broadside turns out to have warmth and humanity and there is a real bonding between performer and audience. The message is similar to that in recent albums by P. J. Harvey and Hurray for the Riff Raff, but Shah has her own personal and direct way of putting her points across.

The set begins with the album’s opening track, ‘Place Like This’. While Shah is concerned about big issues this and other songs also have a focus on what’s happening in her local home area (South Tyneside): “It’s hard to raise a child when it gets like this”. Meanwhile the accomplished five-piece band supplies a complex funky rhythm. There’s some particularly good on-stage interplay between guitar and saxophone through the set. Some of the new material is perhaps reminiscent of Nick Cave’s recent work where sometimes almost spoken lyrics are laid over a band soundtrack.

Nadine Shah, Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 03/02/18

Lyrically Nadine Shah does not hold back her punches and there are some stinging assaults on things she hates in songs like ‘Yes Men’ and ‘Fool’. But there’s also human empathy, as in ‘Jolly Sailor’, about how life goes on regardless in the local pub. Then there’s her personal feelings, as in the song ‘2016’ – “Since turning 30 I don’t know what’s happened to me”. Shah has an amazing voice, with real richness, depth and range. That range is well demonstrated on songs like ‘Stealing Cars’ (from the 2015 album ‘Fast Food’) where she sounds almost operatic, a little like Anna Calvi.

It looks like some devoted fans in the audience are following Nadine from concert to concert. She’s clearly a fan of ‘The North’ and, after a witty outburst from an audience member, she tells us in her rich Geordie accent that southerners are crap at heckling. Shah appears at Hebden Bridge as part of Independent Venue Week and is clearly impressed by the legendary Trades Club. Especially so when a hand reaches up to her with a glass –“Would you like a rum and coke, Nadine?”

Nadine Shah, Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 03/02/18

The set finishes with ‘Out the Way’, a key cut from the new album. Shah has a father of Pakistani origin and a part-Norwegian mother and the song passionately rages against those who want so-called ‘immigrants’ out, with some abrasive saxophone honking from band-member Pete Wareham. “Where would you have me go? I’m second generation, don’t you know?” she sings.

Coming back on stage alone for the encore Nadine Shah is feeling mellow, clearly assisted by the rum and coke and the warm reception. The cries for an encore took a while to build up and she jokes that we’re shite at getting her back. But, though worried that her hair looks a mess, she’s having fun she says. She notices my Cornershop T-Shirt and remarks that they are one of her favourite bands. She even has a curry-coloured Cornershop vinyl album. Strapping on a guitar for the first time she performs solo ‘The Gin One’, a rather personal song, before the full band rejoins her. She finishes with the powerful ‘Mother Fighter’, which directly addresses the plight of a woman trapped in the Syrian conflict.

Nadine Shah, Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 03/02/18

Setlist: Place Like This; 2016; Holiday Destination; Stealing Cars; Yes Men; Big Hands; Evil; Fool; Jolly Sailor; Matador; Fast Food; Ordinary; Out the Way. Encore: The Gin One; Relief; Runaway; Mother Fighter.

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