I love the Adnams Spiegeltent. I love the ambiance, the excited audiences, the welcoming hosts, and I love the range of events it plays host to during its annual two week visit. It is indeed a 'Salon Perdu', a lost room to enter and enjoy. Many of the acts that I have seen in here over the years were new to me, names that, if it had not been for the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, might have forever slipped me by. Others were acts that drew me in by curiosity or recommendation from other festival hawks. Nadine Shah, though, was different. Having seen her three times live, and bought both the first two albums, this was an artist that I knew and loved. And was definitely not going to miss.
I've been in Chapelfield Gardens all day, stewarding and volunteering on the virtual reality swings. At the end of my shift I had swapped by blue Norfolk & Norwich Festival volunteer t-shirt for a red one and rushed down to catch Billy Bragg perform a free show at Norwich Arts Centre for the Labour Party campaign workers of Norwich South. Labour candidate Clive Lewis was there, and Bragg joked that every politician he has ever met secretly wanted to be a rock and roll star. Lewis did not sing tonight, although ironically Billy Bragg's grey hair and beard is beginning to make him look a lot like Jeremy Corbin.
Anyhow, I digress. I am back at the Spiegeltent before 10pm and a long line is patiently queuing in the late evening drizzle, awaiting the doors to the Spiegeltent to open. Nadine Shah is backed tonight by a four piece band who are tight and provide just the right intensity to suit both the material and the venue. Let's be honest here. The new album Holiday Destination is Shah's best work to date, but it pulls no punches in exploring its themes and messages, and tonight's set list features virtually every track from it. This is a 'tell-it-like-it-is' attack on those who think that the refugee crisis, and migration, are issues that Britain can somehow duck out of its humanitarian and moral obligations over. As Shah points out, we are all migrants. 'There is no such thing as indiginous English people. We are all immigrants'. She uses an expletive to hammer home the point that whilst her father may have been born in Pakistan, she was born in South Shields, and is therefore English. Quite right.
But, as well as being politically charged Nadine Shah is a delightful and engaging performer. She likes a drink and makes no secret of it. Her Tyneside accent gives her a grounded appeal that wins over audiences instantly. Yet, like the moment when she accidentally bangs her tooth on the microphone just before the start of a number, she also displays a vulnerability that is also present in her music.
We get three songs from Fast Food to keep the 'play-something-we-know brigade happy' - the title track plus Stealing Cars and Fool, and the saxophone player gets a chance to deliver a few blistering solos, but the evening really belongs to Nadine and Holiday Destination. Attitudes need to change, and it is albums like this and artists like Nadine Shah that have the ability to help do it.
Congratulations to Norfolk & Norwich Festival for the courage and conviction to book an act like this for the prime Saturday night spot.
New album - 'Holiday Destination'
New video and single - 'Out Of The Way'