Nina Nesbitt - KOKO, London
All photos by Lorne Thomson. These photos are copyrighted. Please do not reprint without express permission.
Tipping is always a tricky business, and not just when you’re in a restaurant in a foreign country. In terms of our annual music-based predictions, for every The Civil Wars (and that’s not exactly gone to plan), there’s a Ramona (lead singer now plying their trade in the equally good Girl Called Johnny). Yet we can’t help but feel we got it spot on with singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt. A little under 12 months ago, we were watching her in the sweaty surroundings of Dingwalls; now she's headlining a sold-out KOKO - even without an album release - and is soundtracking the latest John Lewis advert, a boost that's swiftly becoming the must-have leg-up for today's artist-about-town.
To these eyes, KOKO fills up faster than normal tonight and while it might have something to do with opening act Daniel James (standard guy with a guitar schtick, but delivered expertly), the ear-piercing, excited squeals that greet Nesbitt’s arrival on stage suggests the early pile-in is mainly youthful exuberance (note to Editor – remember those days?) (Frankly, no - Ed.) Perhaps crucially for Nesbitt’s impending stardom is that she’s already connected to a fervent, music-hungry youth; evidence of which is given when she asks if anyone in the audience is at school before ‘We’ll Be Back For More’ and is greeted with a affirmative cheer, a cheer that made this particular reviewer feel mighty old.
But what about the music? We witnessed Nesbitt’s effortless charisma and confidence at Dingwalls where she just had a guitar for company. With a full band behind her, that charm is still in evidence and there’s little doubt that Nesbitt is still the star of the show. Maybe the most marked difference between Dingwalls and KOKO is that the bigger stage seems to have unleashed a side we’ve yet to witness, that of a full-on rocker. If the new tracks aired tonight are a sign of the debut album's direction, it won’t necessarily be what we expected but it’s shaping up very nicely indeed: ‘The People’ is a punk-tinged call to arms; ‘Peroxide’ is already stadium sized; and ‘X’ is rockabilly in its rhythm. Indicative of the freedom given to Nesbitt with a band and a bigger stage is that even ‘Brit Summer’ ends with a rollicking extended outro.
Not that the gentle jaunty acoustics of ‘The Apple Tree’ have been forgotten, with outings tonight for the likes of ‘Just Before Goodbye’ (given a piano-led upgrade), and a simply gorgeous new track in the form of ‘The Hardest Part’ in the encore. It’s just that now, we’ve genuinely no idea how the debut album will shape up when it arrives next year, and that’s the most exciting aspect. Nina Nesbitt already has the riches at her disposal to form an auspicious debut as witnessed by tonight’s 16-strong set which doesn’t even find space for tracks such as ‘Boy’ and ‘Hold You’, and it doesn’t seem like she’s stopped writing yet.
As tips go, we’re pretty confident we’re onto a sure thing.
THE APPLE TREE
WAY IN THE WORLD
JUST BEFORE GOODBYE
WE'LL BE BACK FOR MORE
NOSERINGS AND SHOESTRINGS
THE HARDEST PART
HE'S THE ONE I'M BRINGING BACK