Rock bands can do many things, but keeping to time isn't one of them. As a result of the tardiness of the rest of tonight's bill, Nina Nastasia's taking the stage at Bush Hall over half an hour late. As a result of that, the audience is getting restless, and it (some of it, anyway) wants her to know. During the entire build-up, the audience has been sitting quietly (as is the wont of folk audiences), but, in anticipation of tonight's main act, two young fellows have taken it upon themselves to stand up, right at the front of the crowd.

As Nina herself takes the stage alone, and they look round to see what everyone else is doing, only to see that almost everybody else is still seated, waiting for the two to join them. It's a quandary: tough it out at the front and stay standing, or admit defeat and get down. Heads bowed, they admit defeat and drop to the floor. During this excitement, Nina Nastasia takes a while to tune up on stage. Chivvying her along, one wag shouts out, “Hello!”. She's not fazed by this heckle of champions, replying: “Hi,” and adding the admonishment: “Patience.”

She finishes tuning and moves straight into a delicately picked guitar line. Her voice, haunting and powerful by turns, is a remarkable instrument on its own, and her guitar playing isn't bad either. After two songs, she turns to the audience and asks: “What do we do next? I have a list, but...” A request comes in for 'Dog's Life', from 1999's 'Dogs', and she obliges. The song has a pleasant melogy, which jars against lyrics that wonder about lying under the couch and chewing a bone. In fact, the melody echoes “Mmm mmm mmm mmm” by the Crash Test Dummies, but, needless to say, it's streets ahead of that one-hit wonder.

Then it's 'Stormy Weather,' a stand-out track from the same album, which makes excellent use of her stunning voice, which manages to remain firmly rooted to the ground even when striving for the highest highs of the melodies. 'Counting Up Your Bones' starts slowly but develops into an angry, hurt song which, without drums or any other accompaniment, becomes even more powerful. 'Our Day Trip' is introduced as a song that “everybody thinks is happy but I think it's kind of sad.” She's right, too: on the surface it's pleasant enough, a tale of a day trip to the country, but as it goes on it becomes wistful and then takes on a clearly damaged tone, closing with the line “You had so much more ambition”.

The 40-minute set closes with 'Untitled', from her Peel session, which comes across almost like an update of 'Like a Rolling Stone”, beginning with a line about being “a stranger to a life you once looked down upon. Now your friends hardly know you, they talk about you every once in a while.” But the song, appropriately for a closer, comes with a message of redemption rather than Dylan's chastising condemnation.

When Nastasia reappears for the two-song encore, she seems genuinely flattered to have been asked back (“Thanks. I never know what to say.”) It's a mark of the mutual appreciation society that seems to have appeared out of nowhere tonight. Nina Nastasia deserves it though.










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