Scout Niblett - Union Chapel, London
If you've seen Scout Niblett before, during one of her many support slots, you might be forgiven for being not all that impressed. You would, however, be making a huge mistake. See, Scout Niblett is a performer who needs an appreciative audience to be enjoyed fully, the usual support-act crowd of half interested chatterers and half-wits is not conducive to the mood she can create. Fortunately, the crowd tonight were interested in the music, and, my, what music there was.
Scout is a diminutive figure, standing dwarfed by the cathedral-like ceiling of the Union Chapel, but she has one of the most powerful, and emotional, voices in rock. She creates simple moods, plucking on her guitar, slowly building soundscapes of pure, raw emotion that are capable of kicking you right in the heart. The wonderful thing about tonight was that there was near absolute silence from the crowd, apart from rapturous applause, and the songs were given room to breathe and find their own spaces. With guitar that shifts between acoustic strumming and riffs that bring to mind The Pixies or The Breeders, together with that voice that teases and manipulates, it's almost difficult to believe the emotion and energy that comes from such a small figure. And that's the thing that makes Scout Niblett such a great performer; you are absolutely rooting for her, as she strums away, as she has an air of such pure emotion and vulnerability that's so beautiful, its almost painful. "It's all for you", indeed.
The drum kit features heavily, of course, as many of her songs are more like sonic poems with the drums acting as a form of punctuation. This can be wildly beautiful and atmospheric, as in In Darkness Let Me Dwell, which features a dark oppressive drum riff set against the most poetic lyrics and the mood this creates is quite special; though as to her claim that she wrote the music when she was 16th Century composer John Dowd and in this life she thought she'd add the lyrics, it might be best to drawer a veil. Scouts' lyrics are personal and very moving; take Wolfy for example,"We slept late again/and we walked into town/I held your hand in mine/I don't know who was more proud to be with the other/but I think it was me/I think it was me" and when performed in such a delicate, vulnerable way you would have to have a heart of pure stone not to be touched.
She certainly is an amusing and endearing character, though. She gets the giggles at several points, most notably when the fuzzy warbling of a security walkie-talkie is heard clearly over the music, and again, for no apparent reason, when perched behind her drums. One of the highlights of the show was Drummer Boy, for which she was joined by a drummer ("Chris"), which sounded far wilder, heavier and explosive than the version on the album but for her, it was clearly an ordeal to share the stage.
Scout Niblett is a wonderful performer; relaxed, warm, amusing, vulnerable and capable dealing knockout blows with her emotional output. The atmosphere here tonight was electric, and it was all because of the music. She is one of the most talented, unique and entertaining live performers around at the moment, and well worth seeing should you get the chance, and you most certainly will, as she is touring soon with Shouting At Motorists:
12/05 Leicester - Sumo
12/06 Leeds, England - Bassment
12/07 York, England - Fibbers
12/08 Liverpool, England - Magnet
12/09 Glasgow, Scotland - Stereo
12/11 Dublin, Ireland - Whelan's
12/12 Limerick, Ireland - High Stool
12/15 Bristol, England - Cube
12/16 London, England - Barfly
12/17 Manchester, England - Star and Garter
12/19 Norwich, England - Norwich Arts Centre
I first saw Scout Niblett supporting Daniel Johnston many months ago and absolutely hated her. I thought she was pretentious nonsense and hoped our paths would never cross again. Then she turned up a few more months later on another support slot. I grumbled a bit, but listened, and, hey, I thought, as the songs seemed to stick in my head the next day, there might be something there after all. Next came the album, and that was it. Hooked. For Good. She's like crack cocaine in sensible shoes so be careful......
Many thanks to Scout for taking the time and trouble to answer these few questions -
CD Times: We’ve seen you support Daniel Johnston and Sleater Kinney, about as different as you can imagine, but both times you seemed to appeal to lots of people in the crowd and got good reactions. What sort of audience do you think you most appeal too?
Scout:I think the daniel johnson audience was pretty dam perfect. As he’s my favourite songwriter ever.
CD Times: Your lyrics, especially on "I Am" are often fragmentary and fleeting. Are your songs about any specific one thing known to yourself, or are they open to interpretation?
Scout: They are about things known to me.
CD Times: I know the name Scout comes from 'To Kill A Mocckingbird', but what about 'Niblett'?
Scout: Its my real surname.
CD Times: How do you write? Solitary or in collaboration?
Scout: Always solitary
CD Times: What is Steve Albini like to work with?
Scout: The best.
CD Times: What music are you listening to at the moment?
Scout: Gillian welsh.
CD Times: Do you like playing the UK?
Scout: Its better than it used to be. I seem to be getting an audience somehow.
CD Times: What's been your best gig, and what's been the worst?
Scout: Best gig was when Todd played on drummer boy when we did the careless talk costs lives show in august this year at the buffalo bar. It made me cry. I never enjoyed playing so much ever. The worst was recently in Portland Oregan when some coked up assholes were obnoxiously loud while I played. I told them to fucking shut up else I’d stop. They didn’t care and so I stormed off.
CD Times: What would you like to tell people who are thinking about catching one of your shows over the next couple of months?
Scout:Just do it. You’ll get to see me do my new song about the “nike” just doing it approach to anything you think you want for yourself and your life.