gig review: Nadine Shah at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Nadine Shah
Nadine Shah
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If one good thing has come out of Brexit then it’s the music. Nadine Shah is the latest artist to respond to the referendum with an album steeped in the socio-politics of rising nationalism and immigration.

The Newcastle musician’s third release, Holiday Destination, is a marked lyrical shift from previous albums that addressed her ‘shite love life’. Instead it seeks to ‘humanise the dehumanised’ with a post-punk blues that’s so taut it could slice cheese.

Tight and controlled, her five-piece band create tension in repetition (the single guitar note on ‘Aching Bones’), explosive bursts of volume (‘Evil’), and the brooding threat of withheld musical climax (‘Stealing Cars’).

Her deep vocals are equally checked, the intensity of delivery especially apparent on the politically driven ‘Mother Fighter’. Despite imbibing large quantities of alcohol throughout the set, her stage presence and theatrical hand gestures also remain restrained.

This musical and vocal intensity has echoes of PJ Harvey but any resemblance is dispelled by her expletive fuelled banter, which provides welcome relief. Humorously challenging a heckler (“What have you got..?”) she also calls out Theresa May for wearing a bracelet featuring self-portraits of Mexican communist painter Frida Kahlo.

It’s a repartee that’s hard to reconcile with her tightly controlled music but the spark of anger remains consistent throughout.

This is channelled most powerfully on set closer ‘Out The Way’, which touches on her experience as a second-generation immigrant. A coiled portrait of barely contained anger, its tension erupts with a manic saxophone break from Melt Yourself Down’s Pete Wareham.

A near perfect fusion of political energy and exhilaration, it demonstrates the power of music to inspire change despite her concern that she’s preaching to the converted.