It could be the warm, red glow of the lights that bathe the smokey Button Factory Stage, or the smiling quintet that inhabits it. It could be the fact that expectations of this gig had been lowered considerably by the recent Animal Heart album. Maybe it’s simply just the reverb. Whatever the reason for the success of this gig, it’s pleasantly surprising to see Nina Persson deliver such a solidly enjoyable set.
Animal Heart, released in January of this year, was a difficult record to engage with, despite the odd glimpse of those gleaming pop sensibilities that made Persson’s tenure with The Cardigans and A Camp so appealing. Her voice seemed stripped of personality against the bland synthpop backdrop that unfortunately rendered her first solo outing proper a largely forgettable experience.
Somehow, though, the shortcomings of the record seem to fade into distant memory when Persson and her band – “We are Nina’s Persons” she offers, early on – breathe life into songs that, on record at least, felt like they kept the listener at arm’s length. The band form an arc of cosy symmetry onstage, with percussion and keys to Persson’s rear, guitars flanking either side, and a synth lying within reach of each pair of hands. It’s the title track of that record that seems like it should shift proceedings into second gear after the respectful sway in the crowd during ‘Burning Bridges For Fuel’, but the respectful sway is what abides for the duration, despite the disco leanings of much of the set.
Her solo career has been brief, by her own admission, and tonight’s set is bolstered with A Camp numbers. Tellingly, these are the moments that stand apart. ‘Frequent Flyer’ garners the biggest crowd response, and Persson takes up harmonica duties for ‘I Can Buy You’ (“It’s time for a song about capitalism, my friends”), a song that at times feels like it could ignite a singalong. ‘Love Has Left The Room’ allows her to stretch out her vocal, and the greatest success of this night is the reminder that Persson’s voice can hit sublime marks; hers is a distinctive set of pipes, dulled into a nondescript ordinariness on Animal Heart.
It’s a two-encore affair, deservedly, containing two well-chosen covers. Daniel Johnston’s ‘Walking The Cow’ is suitably, if gently, eccentric, while Bowie’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ is the most fun of the night, and Persson departs as her band plays the song out in garage band rowdiness. It’s not the boys in the band that get the last word on this final night of the tour, though, but the girls. The night ends on a personal note with ‘This is Heavy Metal’, and an embrace between the singer and her lone accompanying keys player. It’s a warm gesture to end a night that saw Persson and her band add a crucial, indefinable third dimension so regrettably lacking on the record.
Photo: Kieran Frost