Black Box, Belfast
24th October 2018

It’s been ten years since Nerina Pallot last played Belfast. A lot has changed since that time but quality and talent remain constants. Pallot has had an up and down ride as an artist. Tipped by many to be the next big thing by many on the basis of her second album, ‘Fires’, she refused to be typecast, and has ploughed her own musical furrow. Tonight she is playing solo, the first of two nights in the Green Room in the Black Box, Belfast.

“This reminds me of my living room”, she quips, “…without the bar.”

But small can also be intimate, and Nerina makes the most of the setting and plays a beautiful set, interspersed with funny, rambling monologues, that eventually get to a point. But it the music people have come to hear and she delivers. Stunning vocals, bright intelligent lyrics, and catchy tunes are the basis of a most entertaining night.

The Jersey girl (that’s Jersey, Channel Islands, not Springsteen country) is here to promote her latest album ‘Stay Lucky’ and we are treated to several tracks, which show a diversity of styles and sounds. Alternating between keyboard, acoustic and electric guitar, the lush arrangements of the album are stripped back to leave her voice centre stage, and quite a voice it is too.

Influences and comparisons can be made; Kate Bush, Tori Amos, even Alannis Morrissette, but her material and delivery is strong enough to stamp her own personality. ‘Bring Him Fire’ is an early highlight, with her sweet melodious tone holding the small crowd rapt.

I bring him fire. I bring him blood. I bring my body. I bring my love. I bring devotion. Is it enough?’

‘The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter’ is another pin drop moment. Pace and direction change constantly and the catchy, singalong ‘Geek Song’, has the punters singing along, or humming if they don’t know the words. Her keyboard skills are demonstrated to the full on the lovely ‘All Gold’. ‘When Did I Become Such A Bitch’, for me tries too hard to be quirky, and strays into Dean Freidman, even, dare I say it Richard Stilgoe territory. It’s a rare misstep, and she quickly regains any lost ground with the charged ‘Everybody’s Gone To War’, written as a sharp rebuke to the Iraq war.

And so, everybody’s going to war but we don’t know what we’re fighting for. Don’t tell me it’s a worthy cause. No cause could be so worthy.

Nerina chats to the assembled few on a very easy-going level, and quips are bounced back with interest. Her knowledge of local politics and a witty put down of Arlene and Theresa May’s relationship are greeted with laughter and applause. A story about her last visit to Belfast and her reveal of her wearing an I love Belfast t-shirt again had the audience laughing.

It’s a short walk to the hall in the black box and back for the promised encore. She ends with a stunning and hair-raising vocal delivery of Ivor Novello nominated ‘Sophia’. 10 years between visits is much too long. Hopefully, Nerina is back soon, and playing, deservedly to bigger audiences.