Review: Nadine Shah, Sage Gateshead

Nadine Shah has played a homecoming gig at Sage Gateshead this week.
Nadine Shah has played a homecoming gig at Sage Gateshead this week.

Don't let anyone tell you that new artists aren't making political music - particularly when gems like Nadine Shah have practically grown up on your doorstep.

Born and raised in Whitburn, the 31-year-old singer chose Hall 2 of The Sage to launch her latest national jaunt, booked to showcase her excellent third album Holiday Destination.

Released in August, the record is an impassioned and often scathing account of human suffering, caused both by the current refugee crisis and the world's piggling response.

A second generation immigrant herself, Shah's conviction was demonstrated further still by her choice of touring partners.

Although like-minded in many respects, Hull quartet Life were nevertheless a leftfield pick; their hyperactive punk being neither an obvious fit for the crowd or the venue.

As a long-time follower, however, I'm yet to see them fail in winning over a room, so it was little surprise to witness them rise to the challenge once more.

Spearheaded by charismatic frontman Mez Green - a shape-throwing concoction of Jarvis Cocker and Mark E. Smith - the group arrived off the back of an album of their own in the form of May's debut, Popular Music.

Tighter and more confident than ever, tonight saw them conquer a whole new demographic, not least with the strut of their Brexit and Trump-baiting anthem Euromillions.

Naturally, Nadine Shah arrived with scathing dedications of her own, though this was by and large a performance which steered clear of preaching to the converted.

Instead it was the music which conveyed the bulk of the message; her words rendered all the more powerful given that their topics remain as prevalent as ever - even if our national press no longer deem them newsworthy.

With a five-piece band in tow, her noir sound proved the perfect foil for such grave subject matter, setting jarring guitars, shrill synths and sax to a voice capable of switching from sorrow to anger at the turn of a note.

This much was evident right from the fierce opening one-two of Relief and Holiday Destination, and the intensity scarcely let up from then on in.

Evil, for instance, presented a blunt exploration of identity in a post-referendum wasteland; Yes Man dispensed a sharp rebuke to the powers that be; while Mother Fighter found her documenting the struggles and dilemmas of a real life Syrian refugee named Raghda.

There were highlights from her earlier albums too - Aching Bones' brooding clash has never sounded better, while the marvellous Fool recalls the gothic menace of early Interpol - yet in a show dominated by politics there was a certain inevitability in the way that newer cuts came to the fore.

Closing out her main set, Shah proclaimed the furious Out the Way to be for "anybody who thinks that immigration is anything other than a beautiful thing."

That reprimand certainly couldn't be applied to this audience. Indeed, regardless of her heritage, Nadine Shah is a treasure North East music lovers are proud to call one of their own.