Nellie McKay never disappoints. She did a spirited show at the Highline Ballroom on Saturday night, Dec. 11 with a full band that was as sharp, charming and entertaining as any Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? has seen.
Quirkiness is big part of Nellie’s shtick, but sometimes it hinders enjoyment of her amazing ability to interpret timeless pop songs and make important points with her own tunes. But at times, especially in her solo shows, Nellie’s seemingly absent-mindedness can overwhelm the show a bit.
At the Highline she was organized, focused and well-rehearsed. While there were a couple of false starts, there were no long, awkward pauses while she tried to remember the next song, or find a battered cheat sheet in her homemade fakebook. It was clearly a benefit of working with a band. With bass, guitar, drums, trumpet and trombone all depending on her for cues, there was less room for stumbling.
Nellie never pulls punches when addressing things that are important to her: the environment, animal rights, the horrors of fur. But even when she goes a bit too far, she never loses her charm. She performed an anti-Christmas Tree song, with lines like “please don’t chop another Christmas Tree” and “please don’t ax another evergreen.” Okay, I can see the moral problems with Christmas Tree production and reasons not to support that system, but she lost me with the line “please don’t kill another living thing.” I don’t want to get political about it, but something has to die for every meal — even a vegetarian or vegan repast.