The Long Road Festival: The Showground - Nicole Shortland
The Showground Stage at 10:15 on a Saturday morning might seem like drawing the short straw, yet let's not forget a year earlier we were reviewing Tim Protty-Jones on this very stage at a similarish time and this year he was to be found on the Interstate Stage - so things can change quite quickly.
Nicole was to be accompanied by a 2nd musician however a last minute drop out left her with a drummer in tow with a backing guitar track which actually worked pretty seamlessly.
It may have been early in the morning yet immediately Nicole was giving it her all on "Go" - holding the microphone in her right hand while expressively gesturing with her left. it came with a suitably thoughtful chorus
"Why am I lying awake at night?
Analysing every high and low
Why can't I just let things go?"
It may have been early in the morning but that did not stop Nicole from immediately going for the big sustained notes. This was to be a set of originals apart from the final song and each showed a spark that elevated it as being special - "Wrong For Me" had a lovely modern day life line about her ex not trusting her.
"You knew all my passwords when I had nothing to hide"
It also had the cutting line
"You were just like any other asshole - trying to pull me down"
It played out as a list of indicators that things were never quite right - with Nicole imbuing the song with the correct amount of emotion. Nicole also had a charming habit of thanking the audience in advance towards the end of a song just in case we had not noticed - she needn't had bothered as the ever growing audience were hung on each line although the politeness was truly appreciated.
Her next song "World On Fire was more upbeat with a banjo on the backing track which had a rapid fire soul style delivery on the verses attached to a more rocking chorus. Ever the brave performer, Nicole initiated an audience singalong before 11;00. The song "Easy" came with a Stapletonesque opening and attached a pedal steel guitar to a slow smouldering delivery which the crowd very much warmed to making their participation inevitable,
Fortunately the audience gathered had not "Hit Snooze" the title of an uptempo song of sauciness of "staying in bed with the one you love"
"We've both got tired eyes"
It came with an instantly catchy chorus that grabbed the attention and Nicole was really able to impressively power out her vocals
The high quality of Nicole's material continued with "Cowboy" which brought a full on country guitar intro on this much rootsier sounding number.
The set was to prove a showcase for Nicole's many talents as she took on a number of styles and seemingly mastered them all with little trouble. The first evidence we'll get to see of this will be with "Ride" which will be her first country single and should serve as a great introduction to her overall sound. Nicole effected her own little joyful shimmy as she sang. I
Having mentioned the Chris Stapleton influence on one of her early songs it was notable that her only non original song of the whole set was a cover of "Tennessee Whiskey". Nicole managed to extract the inner soulfulness of the original and managed to turn a field in Leicestershire into a late night Nashville bar with an outstanding performance on which to close out her set.
Nicole Shortland's first single "Ride" will be due to land in the next 5 - 6 weeks