A dose of sarcasm, playfulness, and politics

Priya Khaira-Hanks is delighted by Kate Nash's down-to-earth rock 'n' roll at the O2 Academy

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In a chatty interlude during her gig at the O2 Academy, Kate Nash tells the audience that it was in a tour bus outside this very venue that she received one of the most sexist interview questions of her career. A journalist asked her if she was disappointed that it was mainly teenage girls who attended her gig, to which she replied, “Yes, of course I’d prefer it if only old men turned up”.  Defiant, irreverent and unashamedly feminist, her response exemplifies what makes Kate Nash a fantastic live performer: her infectious enthusiasm ensures that, aside from loving her music, you also want to be her best friend.

Her set—which was attended by a diverse range of ages and genders, if any chauvinistic music critics happen to be interested—saw her take to the stage in holographic silver trousers and a sports bra, looking like a mermaid who updated her clamshells in JD Sports. With help from her all female band, she treats us to a winning mix of favourites, from her debut, Made of Bricks, to the edgier material of Girl Talk, as well the few standout songs from her weaker second album, My Best Friend is You, and a smattering of brand new tracks.

Her music is perfectly suited to live performance due to its intoxicating peaks and troughs. In the opening number, ‘Sister’, the slow, sultry verse entrances and beguiles before suddenly breaking into the raucous, angry chorus: this gear-shift comes into its own in the presence of a jumping, joyful crowd.

As well as musical catharsis, Nash delivers sarcasm, playfulness, and politics. The tour works with the mental health charity, Mind, to promote awareness, combat stigma and raise money, and Nash frankly discusses her own anxiety and OCD. In a music industry where tactical, empty feminism is often employed simply to bolster ticket sales—we’re looking at you, Taylor Swift— it is refreshing to see a musician seem to genuinely care about the causes they are associated with. Nash also talks about the statistically low number of female musicians, complete with a hilarious anecdote about a young female protégée who wrote a punk hit called ‘I AM ANGRY’.

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Anger, it seems, is natural response to the social minefield of being a young woman, and this is something Nash understands, hence lyrics such as “being ripped away from you is like being ripped out of a womb” and “why you being a dickhead for/ you’re just fucking up situations”. When rage is as witty and sequin-studded as this, it can’t help but be edifying. It also transforms into moments of tenderness, such as in new single, ‘My Little Alien’, which is dedicated to her dog and professed soul mate, Stella.

In seconds, Nash switches from cosy camaraderie, treating the audience like a gathering of close friends, to full-blown rock star, crowd surfing with her guitar and screaming along with the strobe lights. One thing remains a constant: you want to be included in her Girl Talk.