When Natalie Prass completed the follow up to her dazzlingly ethereal self-titled debut, she shelved the whole thing. In the wake of the Trump election and the ensuing political and social bedlam we continue to wade through today, Prass felt she had no choice but to respond, to say something more relevant in her music, something more meaningful to her audience.
This message would become The Future and The Past, an album equal parts rallying cry and feminine celebration. At Lincoln Hall this past Wednesday night, the second stop in her supporting world tour, Prass’ message was received loud and clear. On a night the nation at large found itself wrapped in debate regarding consent and reproductive rights, Prass, along with opener Stella Donnelly, each found power and beauty within meaningful discourse.
Explaining how her debut EP, Thrush Metal, began with humble roots, Stella Donnelly admitted she originally made just 20 copies for her close friends. And while the breezy six song debut is a delight, it only hints at the emotional resonance and impressive vocal range the young Aussie brought with her to the stage. Her performance, complete with a “vocal solo,” was entrancing and had the blossoming crowd ready for more.
Yet it was her performance of “Boys will be Boys” that left the most pressing mark. Donnelly explained how the track evolved from an intimate memory into an urgent question for most of her audiences. The song, told from the perspective of a friend, details a troubling case of victim blaming in the wake of a rape. “They said, ‘Boys will be boys’/ Deaf to the word ‘no’” Donnelly howled, evoking a sentiment that would remain present all night.
Emerging to the stage to, “Peanut Butter Jelly Time,”Prass launched into her set, covering material from both of her records at a voracious clip. Adorned in all yellow, Prass worked like an expert band leader, guiding her trusty ensemble of uniformed musicians through the full spectrum of her small but robust output. From the huge sound of the ‘80s inspired “The Fire,” to the groovy funk of “Oh My,” all the way to the encore “Is It You,” a song that could have landed on any Disney movie from the past 20 years, Prass and her band expertly rendered each song to the dazzling Lincoln Hall stage.
The diversity of sound in Prass’ set acutely captured her versatility as a vocalist. With each genre shift, her poise was constant, and even when preforming completely solo on stage. In this way, the show reflected the best part of The Future And The Past: the completely shifting but consistent palette. The record, which pinned Prass with long-time friend Mathew E. White on production, is a feat of both style and inventiveness.
On a night looming the Kavanaugh confirmation process, tracks like “Sister,” and “Ain’t Nobody” felt especially poignant. These songs highlight Prass’ gift with weaving provocative lines into sweetly neat lyrics, abetting the overwhelming sense of urgency running throughout the whole show.
And yet, by the time Prass was concluding with her bouncy and bright smash “Short Court Style,” everything in the whole world seemed distant. Which was soothing, because in truth, sometimes one of the more meaningful ways of dealing with constant stress and adversity is to pause for some celebration and self-love. For Natalie Prass, that seems to always be a part of the formula.