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LIVE: Nellie McKay at L’Astral, Montreal

by Winston "Stone" Ford

I’m going to come out and say it. I really don’t like Nellie McKay.

Sure, she’s cute. Sure, she’s talented. But just like another New York performer (who I will not name), she scrambles any goodwill that she endures by trying too hard to be funny. I get it, people like her, honestly she would be so much better if she focused on her craft and left her comedy at home.

So I found myself at the third night of her three night stint at Montreal’s L’Astral, one of the newer (and more intimate) spaces at the festival. Speaking in broken French during her entire set (again, I don’t know if this is was a sincere gesture to the French speaking audience or a weak joke), the chanteuse stormed through some of her most recognizable tunes. And slowly she started to win me over.

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When her songs are good, they’re great. “Caribbean Time,” is one of her reggae-infused hits (which she played on the ukelele of all things), while “Beneath the Underdog,” is another amazing song, which she plays to perfection in the intimate venue.

But just like Zooey Deschanel, she turns her quirkiness up to 11 way too many times for comfort. This “look at me, I’m zany!” style tends to distract the audience from her rather amazing songwriting skills. Honestly, I think this has plagued her throughout her career and she could’ve been bigger than she is now because of it.

I’m sure I’m in the minority of audience goers with this opinion as the crowd in Montreal loved her. I’m willing to give her another shot, however, and maybe she will continue to grow on me.