According to Nelly Furtado, one of her biggest influences is Beck. A surprising claim, as the god of 90’s alt-rock doesn’t seem to hold very much sway on Furtado’s latin-meets-trip-hop-meets-Asian-meets-bubblegum-pop debut Woah Nelly! Seeing her perform, however, Beck’s influence shines through.
At the Troc last Friday, Furtado showed an energetic zeal for being onstage, working the crowd with a rare extravagance reminiscent of Mr. Hansen’s gig at the Spectrum some years back. Granted, Beck has an ultra-coolness about him that’s untouchable, but Furtado proved to be undeniably impressive… so much so that she’s forgiven for playing her biggest hit (“I’m Like A Bird”) twice.
With a 5-piece band to flesh her sound out, the studio tackiness of songs like “My Love Grows Deeper” and “Baby Girl” was traded for a more instrumental feel, with a creative incorporation of eastern percussion instruments (“Scared Of You” featured the strangely shaped/strangely sounding Ubu).
Furtado tried her hand at playing guitar for “Hey Man!” but seemed much more comfortable when she was unrestrained and dancing from one side of the Troc’s small stage to the other. The conga-infused “Party” was jammed into a lengthy call-and-response fest, and the funky b-side “I Feel You” (no relation to the Depeche Mode song) got the floor moving.
The first performance of “I’m Like A Bird” was a beautiful, slowed-down version with low-key drums and dominant piano, and it would have been utterly brilliant to leave that as the only sign of her massive MTV2 hit. Sadly, she felt the need to play the proper version as her closing song. Oh well.
But like Beck, her ability to make her concert an utter experience for the crowd makes up for those moments where she falls short. The ending of the clubby “Shit On The Radio” was drawn out (repeating “myself… myself… myself…” endlessly) so Furtado could turn the mic over to as much of the audience as possible. And returning onstage after the encore break, she handed out a bouquet of flowers to the people in the front before dancing into “Trynna Finda Way.”
Shortcomings or not, Nelly Furtado knows how to put on a show. If she can keep up the momentum she showed last Friday night, it’ll carry her a long way.