Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Natalie Prass duets with Ryan Adams and Jessie Ware in London

26 June 2015, 10:38 | Written by Russell Warfield

When she asked “why don’t you believe in me?” or told us how her baby doesn’t understand her anymore, Natalie Prass seemed meek and vulnerable.

Her voice small, her sentiments open, these breezy country songs painted her in a way which doesn’t reflect her live performance tonight. She’s commanding, confident, and fiercely sassy. Her voice is sensational, and her songs are sharp. Natalie Prass is a colossal talent.

Take the most twee moment of her debut album (indeed, probably the most twee moment of the year so far) – “It Is You”, for instance. As she introduces it, she explicitly sets up the comparison to a Disney weeper of the’ 50s, joking that it’s about a princess in an English castle. Full of flutes and strings on record, it’s too sickly sweet for some people to really handle.

Tonight, it’s still cute and romantic, but flexes muscles in arrangement and performance in a completely unexpected way. It begins sparsely – with just voice and guitar, Prass floating around the stage in a daydream. After a verse, she decides “this song needs some bass”; later that “the snare’s sounding pretty good”, bringing in her bandmates one by one until she’s at the centre of a powerful, swelling swirl of instrumentation, her voice soaring into absolute gorgeousness. It’s a truly impressive moment, and only three songs into a set which more than maintains its momentum.

What’s perhaps most exciting are the tastes she gives us of what might be to come from her. New song “Jass” sees Prass flutter through a free jazz vocal melody in full falsetto; sounding transcribed from an Albert Ayler sax line, until the guitars and drums fall into one another in a zany, frantic climax.

It hints at an experimental streak which her straight-laced country songs haven’t really yet had chance to indulge, suggesting that Prass is only really getting going as a songwriter and performer. The mind melting moment which saw her duet with Jessie Ware (?!) with Ryan Adams on guitar (??!??!) was another testament to the quality Prass can yield from working in new and unexpected ways. Her first album is excellent. Her second could be exceptional.

But this isn’t to disparage the incredible quality of the songs we’ve already heard and loved. Her closing one-two punch of “Why Don’t You Believe In Me?” and “My Baby Don’t Understand Me” are stunners, her vocal strong and comfortable, expanding and contracting around the arrangements. It cements the distance between her songs in performance and their studio counterparts. On record, the repeated refrain of “our love is a long goodbye” sounds forlorn. Tonight it sounds defiant. And that’s the tone of the entire set – strong, brash and absolutely wonderful.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next