Nouvelle Vague / Gabriella Cilmi, Nottingham Rescue Rooms, Thursday February 7
Is the world ready for yet another “new Amy Winehouse”? In these current Adele/Duffy dominated times, perhaps not quite yet – but it’s hardly Gabreilla Cilmi’s fault that vocally, she happens to be a dead ringer for everyone’s favourite “troubled” diva.
Displaying an astonishing maturity for her sixteen years, this Australian singer-songwriter turned in a polished, practised set, mixing original compositions such as forthcoming single Sweet About Me with a sprightly, soulful cover of Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head. Although currently best known for her version of Echo Beach, as featured on the ITV drama series of the same name, there are already clear signs of a major marketing push, which may well establish her before the year is through.
There’s a certain Smug Middle Class Dinner Party element to some of Nouvelle Vague’s bossa nova reworkings of post-punk classics, which can frankly be a bit off-putting. Towards the start of their set, this element was very much at the forefront, leaving one wondering how soon the joke was going to wear thin.
Thankfully, as lightweight crowd pleasers such as Ever Fallen In Love and Blue Monday gave way to lesser known material, and as the band switched from pure bossa nova to a more rock based approach, the inherent darkness of the material came more to the forefront, and an altogether more satisfying experience began to emerge. Tackling One Hundred Years – possibly the bleakest song that The Cure have ever recorded (“It doesn’t matter if we all die”) – was a bold move, and a risk which paid off artistically, even if it failed to quell the increasingly irritating chatter from the dinner party brigade towards the back of the venue.
The four piece band was fronted by two new singers, Nadeah and Marianne, each radiating a strangely off-kilter kind of glamour: arch, arresting, and über-cool. In the middle of the Dead Kennedys’ Too Drunk To Fuck, Nadeah jumped off the stage, tore through the crowd and sprang onto the bar, where she strutted precariously in a parody of wasted inebriation. Having secured a full pint of lager from the bar staff, she was back on stage in seconds, with barely a drop spilt. You simply had to admire the woman’s style.
While as yet unreleased covers of Devo’s Girl You Want and Richard Hell’s Blank Generation (done as a jazzy strut, with liberal lashings of ennui) drew favourable receptions, the biggest cheers of the night went to The Clash’s Guns Of Brixton and Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, the latter showing clear signs of turning into a Nottingham anthem by proxy. (Well, we’ve all seen Control, haven’t we?) Its reception – and the massed singalong, which continued even after the band left the stage – seemed to take the band by surprise, but they capitalised on the moment magnificently, returning after only a couple of minutes, and picking up the song where they left off. Never was an “encore” more deserving of its name.