Nadine Shah live in Manchester: a visceral movement of musicality and melancholy

Nadine Shah promotional shot in front of red curtain

There is a certain mystique that surrounds Nadine Shah.

Her gargantuan North Eastern tones have an uncanny way of filling whatever room she occupies, and the heft behind her tunes is unmatched across the industry. Shah brings the noise to Manchester tonight with aplomb, hitting the heights on what is only the second night of the run. 

Before Shah and her band thunder into the tunes, she silently hangs a keffiyeh from a nearby mic stand, a silent and symbolic tribute of solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Shah does nothing by halves, and her unspoken show of support is just as poignant as any rallying cry. With her band assembled around her, they dive straight into ‘Even Light’, the opening number from Shah’s latest studio offering, Filthy Underneath. Without a chance to catch your breath from the moody, gothic cut, the band launch into ‘Topless Mother’: Filthy Underneath’s lead single is already a classic amongst fans – it goes down a real treat in New Century Hall, and the sprung floor is already put to use. 

Shah glides about the stage with grace and ease: she’s clad in all black, and her oversised Byrne-esque blazer billows behind as Shah moves. She has a knack of doing every single thing in time and each black-booted footstep connects with the NCH stage in perfect sync with her band. Even the act of squatting to drink from a plastic water bottle somehow feels perfectly poised between the bars of the sinister electro of ‘You Drive, I’ll Shoot’.

Kitchen Sink’ is a huge moment, and the cut’s assured indie chops ring around the hall to excellent effect. Shah is fantastic at playing a dark, broody character as she strides around the strage, but as soon as there is a break in the noise, she breaks into smiles and joy. There is tremendous love in the crowd, and Shah laps up the adoration with modesty. 

‘Fast Food’ and ‘Ladies for Babies (Goats for Love)’ are further fantastic moments, and Shah’s underrated ability to write bangers is laid bare, she has hits and every song shakes the rafters. From indie fuzz to brooding 80’s synth, Shah’s chameleonic musicality makes for an unrivalled show.

‘Greatest Dancer’ sounds huge, and the Depeche-Mode synths are thunderous: they vibrate around the room and reverberate from the high ceilings, the intensity of the moment shakes the audience to their core, and Shah’s crooning adds a gorgeous colour to the piece. Shah’s new material slots in nicely amongst the more established tunes, and the contrast between the opaque indie/alt rock and her exploration into synthesisers and electronica is perfectly placed. 

She seriously brings the house down in a visceral movement of emotion, musicality and melancholy. The sensation is that of grief’s gut punch, but Shah is a reassuring rock throughout.

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