Natalie Prass Embraces Her Rock Roots In SXSW Debut

Natalie Prass’ SXSW debut was absolutely packed. She was squeezed onto the inside stage at Austin’s Cheer Up Charlie’s late Tuesday night, and it became readily apparent that it was much too small a space for an artist who has picked up as many fans as she has over the past few months. But even with the cramped quarters, Prass made the most of it, sweating along with the crowd under hot stage lights to turn in a performance that captured the magic of her self-titled album and, in some ways, even improved on it.

It would be hard to translate all of the bells and whistles present on the album to the stage and, wisely, Prass’ band didn’t bother to for the short set. On top of that, technical issues meant that they had to skip over some of Prass’ more theatrical tracks, so the show focused on her country-rock roots. She came out looking all the better for it. Songs like “Bird Of Prey” and “Violently” — on which the rockier side was always present, but not immediately apparent — were more lively, the drums hitting hard in the mix and elevating the songs with a percussive swagger, letting them reach the highs of album highlights “My Baby Don’t Understand Me” and “Why Don’t You Believe In Me” (both of which sounded great live.)

Oddly enough, Prass’ true rock star moment of the night came during her most melodramatic number. Her performance of “It Is You” — the Disneyfied closing track from the record — was absolutely electric, ditching the Broadway bombast for a dustier, sleepy folk sound. During the song, Prass hopped up on the ledge adjacent to the stage, slinking down to the audience’s level and singing wistfully, but she came across more as a lovesick punk than a princess trapped in a tower. Removed from all of the extra flourishes that made her album so warm and unique, Prass’ live show forges a more immediate connection, one that’s maybe a little more human and a little less otherworldly.