Paper Dress, London
Words & pics by Captain Stavros
Standing just outside a small clutch of fans encircling Nadine Khouri’s orbit after her warm performance at Paper Dress; each vie for the opportunity to overfill her cup with praise. Admittedly, we’re sort of lurking in the outer rim for the same reason. Her face is placid, framed with the same focus one might have when overlooking the horizon from a tall vantage as she nods appreciatively and offers her gratitude for their attendance. When her gaze eventually fell on us, it felt like being seen, which is rare in a big city. Nadine began by asking us our name and then introduced herself (no introduction necessary after her set) with needless humble. There was a playfulness in her eyes and an air of quiet wisdom enshrouded her. There wasn’t as much of a reveal as one might’ve thought, it’s clear that Nadine offers herself to us on stage and lets her music speak for herself, so let’s dispense with anymore introductions and get right to it shall we?
Nadine takes the stage with a lovingly polished and gleaming Epiphone, backed by a soft pulsing percussion. Her 10-track set begins with the cool strumming of ‘Broken Star’ off the album The Salted Air, a refreshing start to a balmy evening. The tune’s melody inspiring imagery of being enveloped in a desert canyon landscape lyrically doesn’t match up. Instead, the song beats the pavement of a dirty and dilapidated cityscape, where bones bang around in the night for cheap thrills. The attempts to keep a broken star safe lead to a trail of blood in its wake and shortly thereafter the song concludes. Her performance, however, carries on but what a visceral opener, right?
What we couldn’t help noticing throughout the performance was just how completely enraptured throughout Nadine’s set the audience was. Whoops and claps exploded in the tiny venue putting the needle far into the red, the PA had no chance against them. It’s easy to understand the enthralment of the crowd, yes, the music is superb, but the lyrics are deep, cutting, insightful and vivid. It’s hard to believe one person has navigated a veritable minefield of personal experience to draw from in order to craft and cultivate set favourites like, ‘I’m on Fire’, ‘Low-Fi Moon’ and her new single ‘Caged Bird’. During their set there was crazy feedback from the synthesizer, ‘that’s not part of the song’ but soon after the hook dropped it was met by an a-la Lou Reed style backup singers chorus crooning the audience with their “Oooo Oooo Oooo” marrying up with Nadine’s.
Nadine’s performance washed over us like a calm conversation between our collective consciousness. Her work is both approachable and relatable. Her inspiration are her experiences, ‘Low-Fi Moon’ played around mid-set, was dedicated to Feist who she saw at the Barbican and wrote the song for directly afterwards being inspired by the set, and who could blame her? Khouri’s performance was unhurried as it was fulfilling. Although the music crossed from stage to audience effortlessly, gently disembarking, her hushed and melodic voice is what's in the spotlight as its enchanting inflection draws the audience in by way of hushed whispers to raspy highs, it holds steady and never cracks. It’s easy to understand why John Parish scouted her out and helped her produce her last album. Nadine has recently released ‘Caged Bird’ on her latest EP, which we were lucky enough to hear live. Keep an eye for upcoming tour dates and new singles dropping, you won’t be disappointed.