Nina Nesbitt & Friends Live @ O2 Academy Islington

Nina Nesbitt has been a growing presence in the singer-songwriter sphere for the past couple of years. In comparison, 2016 has been relatively quiet. Her Modern Love EP caught our attention back in February and since then she has endeavoured to produce music with external inspiration. Tonight she’s promoting her Life In Colour EP  as well as performing some fan favourites. She’s also brought along two gifted support acts to warm up tonight’s crowd.

tommy-ashby-liveTommy Ashby gets the ball rolling armed with an acoustic guitar and his dad’s old electric Hofner. The small space and unavoidable situation of people still arriving, chatting and ordering drinks means that deliberate quiet moments during his set are less effective. Nevertheless, he doesn’t seem bothered as he performs ‘Bruises’ and ‘Cold Snap’. The latter, written about time out on the town in Edinburgh, sees him display some intricate hammer on and pull off skill on the guitar and it’s a treat for the ears. The rest of his set is consistent and enjoyable. The title track from his upcoming Further EP (which will be out near the end of November) suggests he has some good material on the way so watch this space for more from Tommy.

orla-gartlandOrla Gartland is a sprightly and enthusiastic young musician.  She feeds her energy into first song ‘Licking Batteries’ which, she explains, “is about staying in a relationship that’s really bad”. Already her song inspiration seems to be in line with a lot of Nina’s material. However, Orla then goes a bit deeper as she performs a new track called ‘Overthinking’, tackling the subject of anxiety. It’s powerful and poignant yet a lot of fun as she uses her drum machine to create a foundation-shaking hip-hop beat. Her patter and audience interaction in between songs is equally entertaining. She sets up ‘Stranger’ by explaining that it’s about a good friend of hers moving away and then saying ‘It happens a lot when you’re ginger’ which receives a congruous response of laughter from all of us. Closing her set with ‘Lonely People’ and ‘Roots’, the two openers from her two existing EPs, proves popular with all of us. I try to purchase an EP at the end of the night but she’s run out; that’s certainly proof of her successful performance.

Tommy and Orla were both fitting supports for Nina tonight. So complimentary were they to her songwriting and performance style that I’m delighted they are also backing musicians during her set.

Most of us have turned up wearing something blue after being asked to by Nina via social media. Her current short tour is in support of her Life In Colour EP which was released on Monday. Each city she is visiting is represented by a colour corresponding with the colours paired with the tracks on the EP.

Nina arrives on stage alone and dives into her early material with her favourite openers ‘Noserings and Shoestrings’ and ‘The Apple Tree’. It’s fair to say that all her loyal fans enjoy the inclusion of the material that brought her deserved early attention. She balances her set with songs from across her discography.

She thanks us for wearing blue as she introduces ‘Brisbane’ pulling inspiration from a girl who lost her father at the age of 15. It’s rich with melancholy and is deeply affecting in this intimate space. Nina then raises the mood with a spirited rendition of ‘Mr C’ which motivates some fantastic audience participation. Never have I laughed at audience backing vocals as much as when Nina sings ‘I’ve come to the conclusion you’re quite fit, but I’m under no illusion…’ and leaves the room to shout ‘You’re a dick!’.

The new material continues to go down well, aided by Tommy’s accompaniment and Nina bringing her “Niightwatch” studio with her. The stripped back ‘Manchester’ ties in nicely with Orla’s ‘Overthinking’ for its similar subject matter and ‘Chewing Gum’ is just as effective in acoustic form.

We’re regaled with an unreleased song called ‘People in Love’ on which Orla and two backing singers add their vocal harmonies. Nina then proceeds to close her main set with a new song about her sudden rise to fame called ‘Moments I’m Missing’. Those who follow her on Instagram will have seen a snippet of this song near the end of September.

For her encore she performs two fan favourites from her debut album. ‘The Hardest Part’ is delicate and emotional and shows one side of Nina’s talents while ‘Stay Out’ displays her ability to get everyone singing and clapping. Her lyrics are relatable for young listeners; full of relationship woes, textbook social situations and other elements she’s pulled from observing those around her as she’s grown up.


By Will Hunt

Noteworthy Details

Tommy Ashby kicked off the night well
Orla Gartland had a wonderful energy
Both compliment Nina’s music in their own way
A well-balanced set from Nina
‘Stockholm’ was the only new EP track omitted from her set




Connect with the artists

Tommy Ashby

Orla Gartland

Nina Nesbitt

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