Kate Nash; Barfly, London, Monday September 10
Home-made brooches, gentle melodies, mass singalongs and a lobbed pin
“GET YER MUFF AHHHHHHHHT!” A drunken screech from the imbecile at the back cracks the quiet like a fist through a window pane. “You fucking prick,” shouts a girl at the front. “Tosser,” snarls another fan, shaking his head. At the bar The Cribs’ Ryan Jarman, here to support his new girlfriend, is gripping his pint with the taut rage of a strangler, eyes laser-locked onto the heckler. You can smell the testosterone pumping in here; it’s going to kick off.
Onstage Kate Nash sighs in a second of contemplation. She glances at the backstage door. Smiling, she flits her gaze forward, then forces home closer ‘Little Red’, ripping the attention back from the heckler. Ryan isn’t so even tempered. He still hasn’t disengaged his stare from his new nemesis. He lifts his arm back and hurls a pint glass towards his target.
An hour earlier, atmosphere yet to be curdled, the tone is celebratory even before Kate has plonked herself down at her keyboard. Unlike most big star/titchy venue gigs, typically attended by liggers and hangers-on, this place is stuffed with Kate clones. One has found out what Kate is wearing today, copied it exactly, and dyed her hair to match too. Then, as Kate clambers to her stool, waving at the whooping crowd, she is grabbed by another super-fan who presses a hand-made brooch into her hand, causing a melon-slice smile to form across her idol’s face.
Still, this isn’t a vintage dress convention – there’s a lot for Nash to prove. After ‘Foundations’ not so much struck a nerve with the country as Tyson-punched its frontal lobe, making Kate a celebrity, the question of how genuine her shtick is bubbled up. When, back at Reading festival, Kate rammed the Carling Tent with record company-produced “Kate Nash advises: get drunk and dance” flags and decorated her stage with a teapot and balloons, for some it was the moment the whole Kate Nash shebang went from charmingly twee to kooklily contrived. Tonight, backed by a four-piece band in a grotty venue, Nash has the chance to show she’s got it. And although the teapot’s still there, she’s got to prove she’s no mug.
It takes just the opening ‘Shit Song’ to re-demonstrate that Kate Nash has a talent for songwriting that far surpasses her talent for picking second-hand frocks. ‘Stitching Leggings’ sees her flipping tongue-knot vocals Eminem would struggle to keep up with, while ‘Mariella’, ‘Birds’ and of course that song are greeted with roof-piercing cheers. Bona fide proof of her “real”-ness, though, comes during ‘Mouthwash’. Eyes closed, she ever-so-slightly winces during the veins and spots lyric – as if suddenly being shoved back to her days as a confidence-drained teenager. It’s a flinch almost too small to notice, but the tiny Pavlovian gesture encapsulates the reason why thousands see a big part of themselves in Kate. She may have gone to drama school, but this is definitely not acting.
It’s going too well. Before a lolloping ‘Merry Happy’ the first signs of the evening souring sprout. “This is my boyfriend – sing ‘Dickhead’ about him,” slurs a girl after barging to the front, pointing to her drunken fella. “Um? I don’t wanna get involved,” Kate squirms. “This is getting a bit sinister.” Everyone shifts awkwardly. Then during ‘Little Red’ the aforementioned ‘crowd contribution’ occurs. Ryan’s pint pot whistles through the air in slo-mo. CLUNK!
It hits the floor. Stevie Wonder would have got closer, but the point is made.
“He threw a pint? Ha ha! I approve,” smiles Kate in her dressing room afterwards. “I mean, get my muff out? As if that’s going to happen.” It’s clear that it’s going to take more than an amoeba-headed sexist to put Kate Nash off. Especially when she’s got a pint-wielding Crib for back-up.