Rumor has it that the tense political situation in the country has tempted some international performers to consider canceling their gigs Beirut. The thought didn’t cross the mind of Paris-based Australian singer Nadeah , however, whose brand of contemporary pop-rock came to town Thursday evening.
“I think that people nowadays need music more than ever in these difficult times,” she told The Daily Star.
Nadeah’s concert was presented by Beirut Jam Sessions , a project that aims to organize musical events around town for domestic and imported talent, complemented by online postings of locally made music videos.
The venue was Ras Beirut’s Democratic Republic of Music, the high-ceilinged subterranean space that looks every inch the ideal spot for underground music. With rows of terraced seating rising at 90-degree angles from the compact stage tucked in the corner of the hall, it combines aspects of intimacy and expansiveness, especially when an event is well attended.
DRM was packed for Nadeah’s show, and the audience was enthusiastic.
Nadeah’s audience was lathered-up by New York-based Lebanese guitarist Karim Douaidy , who was back in Beirut for his first-ever solo performance. The artist seemed to make use of playback – a performance enhancer familiar to Lebanese audiences from some of the musical theater of the Rahbani Brothers – and, whether ironically applied or not, Douaidy’s work succeeded in warming up the audience for the evidently much-awaited headliner.
With her blonde locks and pixie-ish features, Nadeah is a striking specimen suitable for adorning album covers, and so sure to turn the heads of many men in the audience. What’s notable about her performance presence isn’t her looks, however, but her powerful voice.
Her music navigates a bubbly, psychedelic world ranging from cabaret-redolent pop – apparently she works the French cabaret circuit – lyrical ballads and straight-up rock’n’roll.
For nearly two hours, DRM’s spectators were given a tour of the singer-songwriter’s musical journey. For one of her tunes, entitled “An Asylum on New Year’s Eve,” she wore a man’s shirt as a camisole, plunging the audience into her eerie world that dares not speak its name.
Available biographical material suggests Nadeah traveled to Europe at the age of 18, where she met guitarist Art Menuteau. Relocating to Brighton, in the U.K., the duo collaborated in an ensemble called LoveGods, where they worked with Nick Cave on a U.K. tour and released the album “Between Dogs and Wolves.”
The performer’s first solo album, 2011’s “Venus Gets Even,” has been depicted as “an exciting blend of indie-pop-rock” with “emotionally charged ballads.” Much of the emotion in these tracks evidently derives from the professed autobiographical element in the singer-songwriter’s work.
The titles of her tunes tell the tale – “[She] Burned a Cowboy at the Melbourne Airport” and “Even Quadriplegics Get the Blues.” If Nadeah’s tunes are indeed autobiographical, her life sounds as if it’s been colorful.
In her “Scary Carol” – a track she sang near the end of her show – the singer depicts how she met a “bright green ever hungry polar bear” that enticed her to forget who she truly was, and how she led her to “deep despair.” Evidently some of her tracks are less autobiographical, or perhaps more metaphorical.
Nadeah proved to be an accomplished entertainer, making the stage her own and taking advantage of the intimacy of the setting communicate with the crowd. She wasn’t shy, encouraging them to “move their tooshies if [they] want.”
In addition to having a fine set of vocal chords, Nadeah the singer-songwriter also proved to be good guitarist, and her riffs provoked hollers of appreciation from many spectators. The guitar instrument gave her the opportunity to put on the rock star, dropping to her knees to dig deep for those power chords. Throwing her head back in a theater play of rock’n’roll ecstasy, Nadeah was like a groovin’ lioness.
The world Nadeah’s songs depict is so eccentric, and the voice conveying them so riveting, that it’s hard not to get caught up in her Alice-in-Wonderland creations.
“I think it is a privilege to do this job,” Nadeah remarked before her gig, “especially in countries where you don’t know the culture ... and people.”