13 September 2012 (gig)
19 September 2012
Nell Bryden’s arrival onto the small St Pancras Old Church ‘stage’ tonight is fairly dramatic to say the least. She is completely bald. On her album cover she is a glowing blonde. So what has changed? The singer confesses to the small crowd of press and selected fans that 18 months ago she lost all of her hair through stress and had only recently decided to stop wearing her wig.
The intimate and quiet surroundings of this church seem the perfect place for her to confess that she felt uncomfortable performing without hair. On explaining the change, Bryden recalls an encounter with a young girl earlier that day, where the child innocently looked at her and said to her mum curiously that “that lady’s got no hair”. Bryden admits that if that kind of moment was what she was scared of, then there is really nothing to fear.
With this confessional over, Bryden begins an impressive performance of songs from across her two albums. She is an engaging performer, seemingly subsumed by each of the songs she performs, her demeanour changing to suit the mood of each musical tale. Throughout the night there are jokey references to her hair loss, as she relaxes into the set, even reminding the members of Radio 2 present that they playlisted a song about going bald (Buildings and Treetops). I think she is joking.
The likes of Couldn’t Love You More and Shake The Tree are transformed from their recorded version, getting a new lease of life, even with just a keyboard and acoustic guitar backing. As the church bells chime 9pm, they match beautifully the mood of the song as Bryden shares her musical love letter to New York, Downtown Lullaby.
To close the evening, Bryden chooses the highlight from her current album, and the current single, Sirens. The song is an emotional journey back to her experience in New York on September 11th 2001. As she sings of blue skies being shattered by dust clouds and emergency alarms, the flames on the candles dotted around the church gently move in time. It is an emotional end to an emotional night for Bryden and the audience.