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A Magazine for Sheffield
Live / stage review

Natalie McCool, Park Hill, 21 September

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There must be only a handful of people on the planet whose first, and so far only, visit to a flat in Park Hill was to attend the most intimate of living room gigs by a bona fide, first-rate pop musician.

Like a diver's oxygen tank, Natalie McCool's beautiful, white guitar is a vital organ worn outside the body. This evening, her white jumpsuit completes the modernist scene. What's more, she's played in the flats before. Is there some affinity, some magnetism, between the widescreen, European brutalist architecture and the unassuming yet mesmerising performer?

Confident production, fizzy drums and gutsy basslines

McCool's 2016 album The Great Unknown is on regular rotation in our house. As a pop album it happily holds its own against big hitters like St Vincent's Strange Mercy and Taylor Swift's Reputation. Confident production, fizzy drums and gutsy basslines set out a soundscape, over which Natalie's engaging voice, hooky melodies and seriously good guitar playing just keep reeling off top songs.

Tonight there are two real highlights for me. 'Woman's World' was written for International Women's Day and imagines a place where the men have disappeared. "Not actually a very good place!" she smiles. Brilliantly, the song melds witty lyrics with very manly music, a cocktail of Beatles hit, James Bond theme and maybe a bit of Smokey Robinson. And on 'Fortress' McCool alternates between delay-drenched finger picking and sparse chords to build captivating layers. "Let's build a fortress / And we'll never fall / Walls that have no seams / A tower tall as dreams" could have been written for the brave new world into which this one-off venue was born.

Andrew Wood

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