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Nelly Furtado - Caught live at Hammersmith Apollo


Review: Jack Foley

THE Portuguese party atmosphere witnessed during the current Euro 2004 football tournament was briefly transferred to Hammersmith on Monday night, when Nelly Furtado transformed large sections of the Apollo into a carnival.

Furtado played with gusto, jumping around the stage throughout her lively set, and only occasionally lapsing into lazy, crowd-pleasing antics, which threatened to take the focus off her excellent songwriting of late.

I have to confess, I have only become a fan of the singer since the release of her second album, Folklore, and it was no coincidence that the best songs on the evening emerged from that long-player.

Old favourites, such as I’m Like a Bird and Turn Off The Lights, got the crowd going, but it was easy to hear the progression the artist has made, since her early days.

Folklore is a much more mature album, as well as being closer, in spirit, to the type of work that Furtado is happiest producing. Having cut her teeth and established a following with Whoa Nelly!, she took what can only be deemed as an artistic risk, and has deservedly cashed in.

Hence, it was fitting that two tracks from Folklore served as the show finales - both pre and post encore - and that they were greeted with such adulation.

Furtado is a gracious performer - a black-haired beauty with an amazing voice, whose good looks had several sweaty males eating from the palm of her hand.

Yet, she remains remarkably modest, thanking the crowd, at several points, for their continued support, and making sure the fans were very much a part of proceedings.

Three revellers were pulled up onto the stage at different stages - although one has to question the validity of their presence, given the confidence that they exuded on-stage. They could easily have been plants, designed to add to the overall show of the occasion.

Furtado only really came unstuck during the aforementioned crowd-teasing antics, during which she diverted off into prolonged bouts of ‘yeah, yeah, yeahs’, and clapping, which she expected her listeners to respond with in kind. They did, of course, but it was barely a showcase of her talent, and lasted far too long.

The banjo, which is also a feature of Folklore, also became drowned a little too often by the other instruments being played around her - never more so than during the rousing final track, Powerless, which virtually relegated the instrument to an also-ran.

It was a massive shame, given the presence it adds to several tracks on the long-player.

That said, there was also plenty to savour, and her fans clearly weren’t phased by some of the set’s failures, or Furtado’s excesses.

Several points of the show brought the whole of the Apollo crowd to their feet in cheers of appreciation, from the stonking, slow-building Try (which began with the spotlight on Nelly and her acoustic guitar), through to the feel-good party vibe of current single, Forca, which, coincidentally, is the official song of Euro 2004 (the artist is to perform it before the final).

Tracks such as Fresh Off The Boat also provided an excellent showcase for her resident DJ’s scratching skills, while the likes of One Trick Pony, Explode and The Grass Is Green served to ensure that the night maintained an upbeat vibe, with Furtado and her backing singer regularly indulging in some seductive hip-swaying, to the delight of all who were watching.

Furtado even dropped in some covers, including a short work-out for Missy Elliott’s distinctive Get Ur Freak On, and, at a time when it has become fashionable to cover Oasis (Ryan Adams, anyone?), the Gallaghers’ classic Slide Away (from the Definitely Maybe album).

It was played acoustically, and sounded pretty good, before rolling into the altogether more lively Saturdays, from Folklore.

No doubt, Furtado will now be hoping to carry the carnival fever all the way into a Portuguese success story at those football championships, when her next captive audience might just be a certain Figo, Ronaldo and co.

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