Right now you’re probably asking yourself, “Who the heck is Natalie Prass?” Having just released her debut album, “Natalie Prass” earlier this year, the Virginian singer-songwriter is already wrapping up her very first world tour. Her album was met with much acclaim upon its release: she was even named one of Time Magazine’s “15 Artists To Watch in 2015” and one of Rolling Stone’s “Ten New Artists You Need To Know.” Prass played a show Nov. 11 at World Cafe Live with openers Ron Gallo and Loamlands.
Based in Philadelphia, Gallo is a fairly new solo artist but has already shared the stage with big names such as Dr. Dog, The Walkmen and The Districts. Gallo’s setup was simple: he had an electric guitar that went through one distortion pedal and into a small practice amp. The equipment was minimal but his personality and talent more than made up for it. The guy is filled to the brim with charisma, I tell you. Tall, skinny, an afro twice the size of his head, Gallo sauntered onto the stage sporting a “Goosebumps” T-shirt. After introducing himself, he explained that he usually plays with a backing band, but for that evening he would be playing solo because his bandmates “took the night off.”
His set was very solid; his sound drew influence from psych rock, blues, early punk and maybe even a hint of early country. Lyrically, his songs were hilarious and yet insightful at the same time. It’s a difficult feat to incorporate humor while still maintaining a level of lyrical depth. Some songs that especially stood out to me included “Why Did You Have Kids?” “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me” and “All of the Punks Are Domesticated,” in the final verse of which he belted out, “I will be forgotten in two generations; what will have been my big mark?”
The most impressive part of Gallo’s performance was his voice. He had an absolutely incredibly range, reaching some extremely high notes and even sustaining them flawlessly. It was amazing how he could completely captivate everyone in the venue. He had total control over the crowd—on some of the more dynamic songs, he played so quietly that you could hear a pin drop. His short 30-minute set left me wanting more. If you’re over 21 or have a good fake, I highly recommend that you go check him out at the Boot & Saddle on Dec. 16.
After Gallo’s set and a lively performance from indie folk group Loamlands, Natalie Prass took the stage with a cup of tea in one hand and a shot of whiskey in the other. In a way, that alone says a lot about her music. Her melodies are sweet and smooth like tea but her lyrics are hard-hitting like the whiskey. On her self-titled debut album, released Jan. 27, she sings of troubles in her relationships and loves lost.
I had no idea what to expect when it came to her live show because her album is full of intricate strings and horn sections. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical of how well it would translate to the stage. Sure enough, all my doubts were assuaged the minute her band started to play. The three-piece backing band played all her material in a completely different style from the album. All the strings were replaced with smooth jazz chords on the electric guitar. “It is You,” which on the album sounds like it could’ve been sung by Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, sounded more like a soulful jazz standard.
Prass’ set was flawless. She played through her entire album as well as a few covers. Highlights included “Bird of Prey,” “My Baby Don’t Understand Me” and her own take on Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.” Her singing and guitar-playing were both spot-on, and in between songs she charmed the audience with personal anecdotes. Although many people may not have heard of her at this point, I think Natalie Prass will become a household name before too long. With such talent and charisma, it’s not hard to fall in love with her music.