By Sarah Rosenfeld
British singer/songwriter and rocker Kate Nash played at Metro last Friday night, showcasing many songs off her new, more femmy punk rock inspired album Girl Talk, which came out earlier this year.
Opening with two female acts (Skating Polly and La Sera) and playing with an all-female band herself, Kate Nash's show was high energy, fun and full of the kind of grrl power that actually felt genuine without getting excessively cheesy. With the release of Girl Talk earlier this year, a lot has been written about whether Kate's core fan base, teenage girls, will respond well to her pop goes punk transition. From what I saw at the Metro on Friday, I don't think it will be a problem at all, nor should it be. Kate clearly loves her fans and interacted heavily with them, from the giving of motherly advice like "Don't hang out with dickheads," to inviting screaming fans on stage to dance with her and the band during the second to last number. Never have more selfies been taken on stage at Metro. Although a good mix of guys and gals, the crowd was decidedly younger than most shows I go to in Chicago. It was refreshing to see a bunch of kids so excited about the music that they forget to "be cool" and actually move around a little.
Leading off with a video montage set to '50s girl group style crooning of "don't tell me what to say, don't tell me what to do," Kate's sultry vocals over bass led into a high energy punk infused song that got her fans screaming and jumping around. A strong stage presence, Kate looks like she has as much fun performing as her fans do watching and it sounds like she really enjoys the music she plays now.
Punctuating her songs with feminist pep talks, Kate explained how her hit single "Fri-end" (which still keeps some of the bubblegum influence of her earlier albums but leans edgier) is a song about "shit friends" and later goes into detail about what led to her penning a Pussy Riot support song (spoiler: it's support for Pussy Riot). However, Kate really shines when she channels her inner punk girl. Strong bass notes and growled lyrics like "I've changed my mind, I've changed my face" on her song "Oh" sound great live and admittedly even better than the album version. Switching between guitar, bass and sometimes just singing kept the energy high and her fans engaged.
Kate Nash is definitely a gal to see live, and I recommend checking out her newer music if you are only familiar with her work from the poppy, piano infused "Foundations" era, although she did give a nod to her roots and closed out the show with that song. But the softer finish was not before she actually jumped out into the audience to crowd surf, twice, during her second to last song of the show with the fans she invited onstage. This was the kind of show that would have felt very empowering as a teenage girl, but I could enjoy it now as a pop/punk feminist answer to an industry that is often not very kind to women, especially those who want to go in a different direction than what their label expects.