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Monday, February 04, 2008

Kate Nash at Oxford Art Factory, Sydney


Landing somewhere between the delightful kookiness of Regina Spektor and the mockney wit of Lily Allen, Kate Nash received a rapturous reception as, in her distinctive London twang, she told stories of everyday 21st Century life that jumped from being laugh-out-loud funny to heartbreakingly poignant in the blink of an eye. Accompanied by her band, she belted out a collection of piano-led, upbeat romps from her debut album, Made Of Bricks, including Mariella and Skeleton Song, before grabbing an acoustic guitar and bringing the pace down a notch.

While she can pen a perky pop tune with the best of them, Nash’s true strength lies in her delicate balladry, and her ability to paint vivid pictures with words was best illustrated by standout acoustic song, Birds. Singing of a young couple’s failure to articulate their love for each other, she managed to tell a more interesting tale in four minutes than more revered songwriters do in a career. Her ability to craft believable, three-dimensional characters with true depth is reminiscent of the master of succinct storytelling, Tom Waits. And compliments don’t come much higher than that.

That’s not to say the singalong moments weren’t delicious as well. Tales of simmering discord, Dickhead and Foundations, were greeted with predictable vocal fervour, while an unexpected highlight came when she was joined on stage by the legendary Billy Bragg for a charmingly ramshackle version of his classic track, A New England.

Hidden behind a savvy fa├žade, Nash’s songs spoke of insecurity, yearning and confusion. In her creations, boyfriends are, like, total dicks and relationships are invariably doomed to fail before they have even begun. And while her detractors huff and puff and accuse her of being contrived, anyone that has ever been in a shit relationship or fancied the pants off someone unobtainable understands that Nash’s appeal lies in her ability to perfectly soundtrack their lives, and to do so with humour, charm and honesty. Ultimately, tonight’s triumphant performance proved that, when it comes to well-observed stories of the zeitgeist, Kate Nash is as good as anyone.

Review by Bobby Townsend

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