The Amersham Arms has a history of letting exciting new talents onto their well renowned stage, introducing, Nadia Sheikh. The half Spanish, half English singer-songwriter stepping up to the table, a long way from her home town of Alcora, just north of Valencia, to headline her first show, with the backing of promoters Absent Kelly.
First hearing Nadia on her original EP, it was clear that this is a talented musician, her smooth yet ernest voice giving off country esque vibes, complemented by the soft melodic riffs of her guitar. Since then, Nadia has come on a way, defining her sound with a little more edge, and a rocky overtone that transcends onto the stage.
The introduction of her band has certainly helped produce a sound that teeters on the periphery of indie grunge. Her band, George Capon on guitar, Rowen Davies on bass and George Gardiner on drums, have helped cement this transition. A pre-warning was given before her set that this was a different sound, a sound that would begin to transcend the countryfied vibes that had tickled my eardrums initially. They weren’t wrong.
On hearing the opening number “Feeling Fine“, it was clear we were dealing with a different performer than had first been encountered. It was here she staked her claim to the stage and made it clear as to why she’d been placed on top of the bill for the evening.
If Nadia’s opening performance set the tone for what was to come, her second song of the night, “Going Down” took it to a new level. The deep nineties grunge reverberated around the Amersham and championed her presence as more rock chic than country chick, credit has to go to Nadia for this. It’s not that her original sound wasn’t toe-tappingly delightful, but, for the realisation that maybe venues this side of Europe are more akin to the heavier sounds of an electric guitar, than the softer picking of an acoustic.
There wasn’t a much better example of this than hearing the opening riff to “Now I Look Up“. An instant throw back to an era a la indie rock, filing the venue flawlessly, and invigorating the crowd in tow. The lead guitar giving it an upbeat tempo, head bopping feel akin to Franz Ferdinand in their pomp.
This was complemented perfectly by her next song, “Destiny” bringing the room back to into an ethereal state of obedience, it was if Nadia had cast a spell. It gave you an instant dreamy vibe akin to All Saints, armed with an electric guitar. As the song progressed it didn’t quite deliver the kick that you thought it might, but nevertheless it was an engrossing performance.
Then came her homage to her second home. “Soul of the City“, an unrelenting love song to the city of London. You only have to look at Nadia to get a flavour of her latino spice, which you could argue this doesn’t radiate in her stage presence, whether this is a conscious decision is unclear, but Soul of the City certainly brings it back to her earlier sound.
It is undeniable that the highlight of the night came towards the end of Nadia’s set. It was planned, the band quietly left the stage as the lights turned a moody blue to set the tone. The couple of minutes it took to tune the guitar worth the wait, with Nadia admitting on stage that the difficulty of tuning meant she didn’t play this song live very much, but it was headline night, it had to done.
“Deep Waters” showed Nadia’s true colours as well as her musical talents. It brought about the most poignant moment of the evening when she devoted it to her father, a devout supporter who made this night happen. Standing on the stage alone, she delivered an exceptional performance. A controlled, emotional and sensitive demonstration of her voice, it created a meaningful moment and one that will be hard to forget.
A perfect example of a passionate artist, Nadia has made this rise happen for herself, with support from her family, if her dedication is on the same level as her talent the ascent won’t stop here. Having chosen to do a cover at the end of the set, there probably wasn’t one Nadia and the band could have performed to encapsulate the journey she has made. “Come Together” by the Beatles holds the heavy base, cut through by the screeching guitar that seemed to welcome Nadia’s voice to make a perfectly delivered cover.
Then came the show stopper, as far as I could tell it was Nadia’s song “50 Feet” that brought her to the attention of many that have followed her ever since. The typically country vibes had been toned down and the song now held a soft rock overtone that undeniably works for this girl.
On occasion Nadia’s stage presence dipped. What could be contrived as (and probably is) understated, you can’t help but feel some additional oomph would give an extra edge to match her more substantial sound, but, there can’t be any doubt that this will come, it was her first act as a headliner and she certainly rocked it.
There is something special about this performer. Undeniably talented, her modesty on stage, her talent and her desire to make things happen will ensure a bright future for Nadia Sheikh. You can catch Nadia in her upcoming gigs around London, keep tabs on her on Facebook and her website.
Photo Credit: ULALALAUimages
Words by Theo Andrew