Pop: Nelly Furtado

Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Nelly Furtado closes her set proper with her hit. She clatters through it with commendable vim and vigour, repeating the first verse at a different tempo and letting the crowd take one of the choruses for themselves. By any reasonable yardstick, I'm Like a Bird (even without the hoped-for pantomime response of "Oh no, you're not") is a life-affirming song: bright, breezy and a sure contender for single of the year in 2001's more discerning polls.

It might, though, have been apposite if the Portuguese-Canadian had offered a prayer for Joan Osborne, Meredith Brooks and all the one-song wonders before her, because I'm Like a Bird is virtually all she has. One day someone will simply play 12 versions of their hit and it will be good, but until then acts such as Nelly Furtado are scuppered.

The presence of a DJ and his turntables suggests some kind of hip-hop influence, but he remains a largely superfluous figure, while a percussionist only comes to life during Party and Shit on the Radio (Remember the Days). In spite of this desperation to cover any base that is currently in the charts, Furtado's lyrical flair and potentially fascinating vocal contortions are lost in a sludgy mix.

In fairness, despite a light show so inept that she mostly performs in shadow, Furtado's good-natured demeanour never wavers and she works hard for her money. "Phew," she announces after Baby Girl, more to herself than the crowd, "Shepherd's Bush Empire." She gambols across stage like an exuberant faun and shakes hands with a keenness that suggests she is hoping to enter the House of Commons after June 7, but her paucity of ideas reveals itself in endless call-and-response sessions. She says "London"; we say "London"; she says "London"; we say "Oh, get on with it".

Still, this was her first performance outside North America, she is only 21, she composed the hit herself, and I Will Make U Cry (despite some tacky rain effects), the sprightly Turn off the Light and the intriguing encore Trynna Finda Way offer some potential for longevity. Ultimately, though, Furtado offers neither sex nor substance and the overall effect is akin to watching a schoolgirl hip-hop fan attempt karaoke versions of Alanis Morissette.


John Aizlewood

The GuardianTramp

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