For an artist who all but totally eschews image and unnatural sweeteners, Nelly Furtado does a remarkably good job of being all things to all people. The Canadian-bred Portuguese singer-songwriter filled Town Hall with an interesting cross-section of folks, from pre-adolescents with parents in tow to thirtysomething smoothies with a yen for her cool-but-cushy grooves.
Furtado’s energetic perf didn’t let down any segment of the aud, but she struggled to be heard over the bass-heavy mix at times during the 90-minute set. Things started promisingly enough, with sassy renditions of “One Trick Pony” and “Explode,” both of which allowed Furtado to flaunt a tough-chick persona not steeped in MTV cliche.
Sprinklings of sugar and spice were scattered through the evening, with songs like the wistful “Fresh Off the Boat” giving Furtado a chance to flash her quirkily engaging falsetto. A rendering of the breakthrough hit “I’m Like a Bird,” however, was tossed off blithely in one of the set’s few disengaged moments.
While sales of Furtado’s sophomore outing, “Folklore,” have been something of a bust, Gotham fans seem to have absorbed its songs fully, matching the singer note for note on the lilting, baby’s-heartbeat driven “Try.” The communication flowed both ways, with the singer personalizing her stage banter smartly, offering a history lesson about the venue’s past life as a political meeting house.
Politics, of a sort, also informed the set’s most passionate song, “Shit on the Radio.” Here, Furtado rode the tune’s sultry groove hard, scatting across the measures and kicking up a fuss reminiscent of Elvis Costello’s early performances of “Radio Radio.”