Buckle & Boots 2023: The Paddock Stage - Neeve Zahra
Having already burdened Neeve Zahra by naming her as having produced one of the best debut UK Americana EP’s ever, it was time to see if the Manchester based teenager could reproduce the elements that made that EP so strong, in a live environment. For this show she would have just an additional guitarist Drew, who somewhat towered over her, but they were to make a formidable team.
She opened her set as she opens her EP in an positive mood with the upbeat “Because I Love You” – with Drew picking out the songs prominent guitar line and providing backing vocals. Neeve has a definitely Dolly influenced vocal style and she was to show no fear in going for a number of high extended notes on this opener, She ended this song as she would all in her set by saying a polite “Thank you” - as if to make sure we had noticed that it had finished!
Relatively slight in stature it is amazing quite how much power she is able to pack into her delivery.
For “The Way I Need You”, Neeve created all of the parts that make the song such a success – With Drew once again providing some telling backing vocals, as Neeve unveiled a quite heartbreaking chorus, this was simply magnificent. The section of the break where Neeve “oohs” came with a lovely reverb. that was both dreamy and sublime.
Things would only get better “Spotlight”, which was one of the few moments at this years Festival where the hairs on your arm would stand up. This opening clutch of songs was so strong, it really whets the appetite for what else she may have up her sleeve. Once again she was magnificent on the big notes ( and we mean BIG notes) so much so that the tent behind her started to fall apart – admittedly the wind may have played a small part but we like to think that it was sheer Neeve power in action!
A couple of glimpses of the material she has in her repertoire came next, “Best Thing” which was casually introduced, name dropping it’s co writer Kyle Falconer as a friend – a reference that probably flew over most of the crowd, but not #TEAMw21 - Kyle being from The View who were not averse to writing a good tune or two themselves. Although Neeve had been playing her guitar all set, for this one it was just Drew providing the instrumental sound, Neeve, still holding her guitar, would sway from side to side as she sang. It’s hard to absorb too much from a song on first listen but lines like
“I don’t love you and I never have”
suggest it will fit in well!
Another new song “Step Right Over” was another blow your socks off moment – it seemed to come with a classic pop intro, an almost sixties style pop chorus complete with a guitar solo and a piece of audience participation - one of the purest pop songs that we would hear all weekend – loved it!!
The set that was far to short ended with another jaw dropping moment from the EP, in the shape of “Love Me” – a song that literally took her to Nashville – with it reaching the final of a competition against 20,000 other entries – it is that good. This was a powerful captivating performance that someone twice her age would be glad to manage. Matching heartbreaking lyrics to a moving tune and stunning vocals, this literally was as good as it gets.
When she sings “Is this really the end now? Did I mean anything at all?” – her voices rises in volume as if shouting it back in the middle of a row – it was highly effective.
Have no doubt, this was a stand out performance – if you missed it, at least check out Neeve Zahra’s EP “A Country Kind Of Love” to see what all the fuss is about.