Natalie Prass Dispells Notions at The Bowery Ballroom

July 14th, 2015

Natalie Prass – The Bowery Ballroom – July 13, 2015

You might see Natalie Prass’s slight figure as a delicate, fragile thing. But you’d be only half right. Sure, many of the songs she played last night at The Bowery Ballroom had a breakable, porcelain exterior, but beneath that shell, Prass proved to be a powerful force with the potential and momentum of a wrecking ball. She dispelled any dainty notions the moment she took the stage. Approaching the microphone, she got a loud zap of static and feedback that nearly bowled her over, prompting her first words to be paraphrased as “What the [bleep]ing [bleep]!” The ice properly broken, she opened with “Your Fool”—off of her acclaimed self-titled debut album, released earlier this year—her voice shimmering with sweetness throughout the room. She sang “It Is You” as a serenade to New York City, a sort of lounge-jazz ballad featuring a pretty guitar solo from Trey Pollard.

The first few numbers lulled the crowd into an eager submission, the audience falling rapt to her music and between-song antics. Prass explained that she was on antibiotics, perhaps making an excuse for her funny, flirty banter with the sold-out crowd (not that it was needed), working the room like a pro. She mixed in new songs with the album material, each tune displaying a different side of her genre-spanning sound. “Last Time,” with two guitars and the drummer using mallets to create a beautiful, moody piece, showed that the quieter things got, the more intense Prass became. “Bird of Prey” was a grooving Southern-guitar disco while “Christy” was a dark, dreamlike sojourn. And while Prass was the star of the show, her centerpiece wouldn’t be quite what it was without her excellent backing band. Led by Pollard, the three musicians had a chance to shine individually, but did their best work as a unit, alternating among sexy slow jam, pretty pop and deep grooves.

As things got looser on the stage—at one point, Prass was tossing bananas into the crowd as if she had come to gawk at us gorillas—the music followed. Sounding like a Paul Simon B-side, with its Afropop guitars and rhythms, “Jass” was both a change-of-pace highlight and a peak at things to come. She ended strong with a trio of tunes from the album. “My Baby Don’t Understand Me” was a powerful, climactic number with everyone hitting their marks to dramatic effect. The reprise of “Your Fool” had the band leaving larger-than-life shadows behind the stage as the audience stood quiet and attentive in awe of Prass’s vocals. And then “Why Don’t You Believe in Me” closed the set with her unique rocking groove putting a final exclamation point on the night, that fragile exterior left in shattered bits on the stage floor. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

(Natalie Prass returns to NYC to play Music Hall of Williamsburg on 11/10.)