Nerina Pallot - The Station Sessions - St Pancras, London
I've been dipping in and out of singer-songwriter Nerina Pallot's work since 2005, around the time her second album Fires appeared, but I've only caught her live once in all those years! I'm not sure if it was before or after I'd heard her sophomore release but Google tells me that it was in May 2005 at Ronnie Scott's, supporting ex-Aztec Camera frontman Roddy Frame. I don't know why I've missed many a Pallot performance in the lengthy period since I discovered her work as I've enjoyed everything she's released, but our paths just haven't crossed. In the last year or so I have been catching the occasional gig online as Nerina puts on regular shows from her home, where she plays a variety of tracks, occasionally taking requests from the faithful fans that tune in via Ustream.
Nerina has just released her fourth album Year Of The Wolf and to celebrate its birth performed four online shows in the run up to the collection hitting the stores, playing an album in full each night, starting with her debut Dear Frustrated Superstar. I was able to tune in live to the first three sessions and was really impressed by the stripped down versions of all the tracks on offer, making me see each album in a new light and really reawakening my interest in the singer.
I was actually quite excited when I heard Nerina was going to be playing a free show at London's St Pancras Station as part of The Station Sessions six week festival so made sure I'd get a decent spot for taking pictures by turning up around 5 for her 6pm performance. There were a couple of fans already hanging around when I arrived so chatted with them for a bit, making our way to the intimate staging area once a few other people started showing up.
As luck would have it, Nerina was late getting to the station so hadn't soundchecked so the assembled punters got to hear decent chunks of a few of the songs on offer, with Nerina stopping every so often to mention to the growing crowd that she hadn't started yet and she had still to get her stage gear on, removing her jacket, her jeans from under her dress and swopping baseball boots for high heels. Soundcheck over, Nerina and her string quartet took their leave, returning suitably attired for the performance!
Miss Pallot's set proper started with "Butterfly" from her new collection followed by Fires fave "Idaho". It was quite surreal taking in Nerina's set, especially with the quartet performing as it was a real contrast to the regular noises that soundtrack the hustle and bustle of one of London's busiest stations, with train and security announcements popping up every so often. Nerina was extremely lucky with her timing as the announcements very rarely appeared mid song, only causing slight giggles once during the early part of the set at the start of "All Bets Are Off". I was extremely glad the regular ambient noise didn't spoil the more moving songs on offer as the audience were treated to extremely passionate takes on "Grace" from the current collection, oldie "Sophia" and the very touching "History Boys", a song dealing with the repatriation of the Wootton Bassett soldiers, a track that Nerina was slightly reluctant to play as it almost caused her to fall apart when she played it live on the radio a few days earlier.
It may sound like Nerina's set was full of doom and gloom but there was plenty of fun to be had throughout with a lot of laughter between songs, including the singer trying out her French on the audience and attracting the attention of people waiting for trains on the level above. There was also some lighter musical fare on offer including my Pallot fave "Geek Love", which I almost got to hear twice thanks to the soundcheck!
Nerina's phenomenal station set wound up with Dear Frustrated Superstar's "My Last Tango" followed by a lively run through of current single "Put Your Hands Up". Sadly no arms were raised but I'm sure the song certainly got people in the mood to enjoy the rest of their weekend. It certainly was a great way to start mine anyway.