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Nadine Shah live at the Deaf Institute, Manchester


The utmost glistening diamond from the mountain of crystalline lyrics to be found upon Fast Food acts as an air raid siren tonight, echoing around a sold out Deaf Institute before the band have even reached the stage. And warn it should. If Shah came across humble, generous and altogether quite warming just an hour earlier during a brief chat, make no mistake, she was about to set the room on fire.

A penetrative stare, before album closer ‘Living’ begins proceedings, following on from the bring-your-own-track-into-work intro. From one bold move onto the next – all the while completely justified.

Almost instantly, her effortless demeanour creates an authoritarian stance that stirs the hearts of the revellers, yet it is precisely the moment those first vocals swell that you detect the belief emanating from a crowd duly captured. All of the culture and character, the heartache and experience, condensed down into baritone velvet for softened ears to blush.

The spell breaks – as each performance finishes, Shah reverts back into something seen earlier backstage. Albeit not overtly animated nor bubbling, she becomes softer, with cursing and accents and anecdotes.

She becomes human, and that in itself is what makes the spell so enthralling. This unbelievably immediate, yet entirely genuine contrast whirls the audience through a series of new tracks, before dropping them into a climb through the older, ivory based material. It serves to increase tension, ‘Aching Bones’ providing the transformative point from Shah as elected spokeswoman surrounded by onlookers, to Shah as rapturous cult leader.

This final section, Act 2, is the embodiment of true progression. ‘Stealing Cars’ leaps from the walls, Shah’s stare now mutated into a indeterminable, Robert Johnson like look of realisation. All hereby achieved, about to be blown open by the closing ‘Fool’ – washing in discordance, contorting in it’s newly appointed dictatorship.

They leave the stage, we stand unravelled at the alter. A stripped back encore of stand out album track ‘Delivered’ rifles through the wreckage lying ahead, cascading purity and calm over the barely rested coals. Cyclical, coherent, complete. “There was nothing else to do but fall in love.”

Mike Emerson

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