The last time Edinburgh born Nina Nesbitt played at King Tut’s, she had a swirly mane of long blonde hair and was never seen without her trusty acoustic guitar. Tonight however, you’d be excused for thinking that this was a completely different person. Gone are the denim shorts, the shaggy hair and the folksy pop songs; she has returned with a stylish new image, emphasised by the smart blazer and sleek bob, and a brand new sound to match.
Nina has grown a loyal fan base of ‘Nesbians’ over the years, and they are more than ecstatic when she struts onto the stage, looking every inch the catwalk model, singing a slowed down version of one of her earliest songs Noserings and Shoestrings. Everything starts to feel more familiar when she picks up her guitar and launches into a rousing rendition of The Apple Tree, which has the crowd joining in on its catchy chorus.
After this though, we are gradually introduced to the new Nina Nesbitt, with the setlist dominated by mainly new songs and others from forthcoming EP Modern Love. It’s as if she gives the crowd this early sense of familiarity to get the gig going before presenting them with the new sound. Of course, this means that there are not many opportunities for crowd participation throughout the night, with the predominantly young audience remaining fairly quiet, but it allows us the opportunity to get a feel for her new creative direction and to hear the stories behind each new song.
What is clear is that she’s definitely been listening to a lot of Taylor Swift’s 1989; the new material is full of pulsating electronic beats with a lot more consideration for production and atmospherics. Basically, everything feels a bit more Tove Lo than Amy Macdonald now. People In Love, a power ballad about sexuality in the modern world, goes down a storm with its huge, anthemic chorus while Masquerade has a beautifully haunting ambience. The absence of her acoustic guitar allows Nina to command the stage more confidently and thankfully she doesn’t look too lost without it. In fact, she is able to show off her amazing vocal potential, something she had kept rather under wraps on debut album Peroxide.
Unfortunately, some songs threaten to be swallowed up by the, at times, overwrought synthesisers. The middle of the gig starts to feel a bit slow as many of the new songs are similarly paced, but this is a warm up show after all and these things can be worked on.
Things get shaken up when Mr C from her debut album gets an interesting electronic remix, before moving into quick cover versions of Drake’s Hotline Bling and The Weeknd’s Can’t Feel My Face. It’s an unexpected move but a fun one that gets the crowd singing along, and is perhaps indicative of Nina’s new pop and R&B influences. Meanwhile, Stay Out gets a similar makeover, with the popular song having a huge drop in the chorus akin to Taylor Swift’s Knew You Were Trouble.
The best song of the night, Chewing Gum, is saved until the end. It’s the singer’s latest single; a brilliant pop anthem with a fantastic chorus, bursting with radiant synthesisers and full of attitude. It’s the first time, she says, she’s had people jumping at her one of her gigs.
Nina’s transformation is an exciting one and it actually feels like we’re seeing her for the first time as a proper artist. Whether she can battle it out against the many other female divas dominating the music industry though, remains to be seen.