Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, ON, March 15
There was no piano, no bubble gum pop melodies and no messy redhead onstage last night at the Horseshoe Tavern. We weren't in the wrong place — it was a Kate Nash show, but the British singer-songwriter has gone through a bit of a transformation. After an admittedly tough couple of years following her 2010 sophomore release, My Best Friend Is You, Nash reinvented herself and her music to channel a darker, more punk aesthetic she had found solace in. Now, she wields a guitar as her weapon of choice, sports a coiffed black and blonde pin-up do, and has stretched her vocals to range from morose to explosively guttural.
This might be jarring at first, and the metamorphosis is clearly not complete yet, but there's a rejuvenated energy and attitude to Nash that fuels her live sets and really sells this new sound more so than on record.
Songs like "Death Proof" and "All Talk" were bass-heavy punk numbers that were visceral and a far cry from anything off of 2007's Made of Bricks, but were performed with the vigour of a well-seasoned rock band (an all-female band in Nash's case — an intentional decision). But pop melodies still found a way of seeping into Nash's songs, especially on "Are You There Sweetheart?" and single "3AM."
This duality of personalities — the punk and the pop star — didn't always work, though. Nash's pop voice could sound awkward when forced into a punk setting, but when she reached for the screams and growls, it hit the mark. Her banter was reflective of the two personas as well. The bubbliness was still very much present, but there was a tough-girl snark to everything she said, from an "Are you ready to party?!" to when she tore a sticker of Interscope Records (the label that dropped her) off her amp, ripped it in half and yelled, "Fuck Interscope!"
People are quick to dismiss this new Kate Nash as an homage or new extension of the '90s riot grrrl movement and sound, but that's not necessarily true. Her female-empowering messages may draw parallels to those of Bikini Kill and Bratmobile, but it's not Nash's intention to imitate those bands and bare a riot grrrl flag for a new generation. She's simply a girl who just wants to fucking rock.
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