REVIEW: Nina Ferro celebrates ten years in London

(606 CLUB, 24th May 2015. Review by Paul Pace)

Australian vocalist Nina Ferro celebrated ten years of living and performing in her adopted second home, London, on a balmy May Sunday evening. A testament to her popularity was the full house that night at the 606. A lively programme charted Nina’s London journey from her first ever gig at Soho’s Spice of Life, her residencies at Ronnie Scott’s (fulfilling a long-held dream of playing the world famous club), her numerous gigs at the 606 and more recently the wider public platform of touring with vocal superstar Gregory Porter.

Some numbers in her two full sets were bursting with exuberance, others were well-crafted reflective ballad vignettes. The majority of songs were originals either written solely by Nina or collaborations with fellow musicians. In a way, those many connections were a theme of the evening.

The band were tailor-made to groove, with several storming solos from Carl Hudson on piano and electric keyboard deploying both Fender Rhodes and Hammond organ on the funkier offerings, plus Nina’s regular bassist Simon Little locking in efficiently with drummer Alex Torjussen. Notching up the excitement quotient was guitarist Nial Tompkins whilst Ferro herself often shared front line vocal duties with the equally effervescent Niamh McNally.

Get to My Heart, from Ferro’s current album ‘Into the Light’ instilled a gently insistent groove with Nashville leanings. It set the tone for the versatility of her music as it crossed the genres. Nevertheless, each number had its distinctive flavour, from the catchy swamp-funk of Plutonium Delirium to the unashamedly pop ballad Cry Cry Cry. 606 proprietor Steve Rubie brought the beautiful textures of his flute to the Everly Brothers’ classic All I Have to Do is Dream the reduced tempo of Ferro’s version enabling a more contemporaneous savouring of the lyrics. A highlight of the set was Tossin’ and Turnin’, probably her catchiest song to date from her previous album ‘Waiting for the Sunset’ – this rendition complete with strong backbeat and stops instilling a strong audience reaction.

More collaborations followed in the second set, singer and guitar Dominic Grant in duo with Nina on an India Arie cover, Video followed by band-augmented party favourite Sway to mambo the night air. Nina sang her next duet with London based Australian singer/pianist Jenny Carr for a stirring protest song All in the Name of God about the futility of religious wars. Jenny’s husband, drummer Jonathan Lee joined the band for a second number. A superb left-handed drummer, Jonathan skillfully navigated the ‘right-handed’ kit and came away with flying colours on another original, this time authored by Jenny, Looking at Love.

Ferro's latest songwriting collaborator Michael McEvoy joined her for a poignant duet on their song Morning Is before party time ensued when trumpeter Reuben Fowler, trombonist Nichol Tompson and alto saxophonist Graeme Blevins assembled on stage forming London’s tightest horn section that night. The band steamed through the closing numbers including Stevie Wonder’s Creepin’, the Doobie Brothers’ What a Fool Believes by way of Aretha Franklin and the encore, a ‘second-line’ stomping mash-up of Gary Wright’s Dream Weaver resplendent with Dixieland horn solos.

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