When Nadia Reid takes the stage at Brighton’s intimate Green Door Store, there’s an audible air of anticipation in the crowd. She last played the UK only nine months ago, but tonight’s performance makes it clear that she’s spent plenty of time honing her skills. Her debut album ‘Listen To Formation, Look For The Signs’ – though a few years old now – has clearly continued to earn Reid new fans in the intervening time between her last UK shows and this tour, as the Green Door Store is tightly packed tonight.
Crowd reception throughout the show is warm and enthusiastic and it’s well deserved; though not a wildly different show from the one she put on back in May, her performance is more confident and refined. Joined by Sam Taylor on guitar, the duo give a relaxed hour long set that suggests two musicians comfortable both with each other and with the stage. Banter between songs is fairly minimal, but when Reid does chat, she manages to be funny and anecdotal without meandering.
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Her set draws both from her debut – an album that most of the audience was clearly intimately acquainted with – and upcoming sophomore effort ‘Preservation’. ‘Preservation’ is a strong, well written follow up to her debut and performed live she sheds a new, often softer light on material from the album. Whereas tracks like ‘Richard’ have a driving rhythmic feel on record, live performance gives the song a gentler, more meandering form; Reid’s accomplished guitar and vocals sensitively counterpointed by Taylor’s excellent lead guitar adornment.
The lack of rhythm section live is both a blessing and a curse – the stripped back presentation works in the favour of ‘The Arrow And The Aim’, the song’s raw emotional resonance more obvious than on the studio version. On the other hand, ‘Right On Time’, a standout from ‘Preservation’, suffers somewhat from the lack of drums. A big part of what made the song so great on album was the upbeat presentation, which the driving rhythm section played a big part in. Live, it’s still a good song but it lacks the studio version’s impact.
Although Reid’s songs are intimate, they work well live. Clearly written from a deeply personal perspective, there’s a certain reliability to the themes of love, loss and frustrations that appear so often in her lyrics. That, perhaps, was why there was something of a sense community here tonight. In fact, there was such an enthusiasm and warmth emanating from the crowd that it felt as though she was playing a hometown gig; even though in reality Reid, a New Zealand native, comes from the other side of the planet.
Reid’s voice is one of her strongest assets – rich, powerful and soulful, it’s every bit as strong live as it is on album – if not more so. She clearly has a strong command over her own voice and at no point does it feel as though she’s struggling to do her own songs justice – indeed, the vocals are the single most impressive element of what she does on stage. Likewise, Reid has a strong command of melody that gives her songs an immediacy and accessibility that many comparables lack. It’s this hookiness in her songcraft that makes the songs she plays from her first album so immediately recognisable and warmly received. It’s to her credit that songs from ‘Preservation’ – material that most tonight won’t have heard – is met with the same entranced silence as her more familiar work.
Reid and Taylor were clearly spurred on by the positive reception as they played with an eager enthusiasm – perhaps it was simply that their Brighton stop was only the second of the tour, but it did feel as though they were enjoying their set as much as the audience.
Shows from singer-songwriters can sometimes be sombre affairs. Worthwhile and rewarding, yes, but not exactly buzzing with energy. Nadia Reid, then, sets herself apart in a very overcrowded genre by merit of the fact that her live show feels energetic, involved and – most importantly – fun.