Naima Bock

Hug & Pint, Glasgow

21 October 2022

Naima Bock is probably my best accidental discovery of the year, since I caught her opening set at the Hidden Door Festival back in June. I've listened to her debut album since then, and been waiting for a chance to see her again.

I wasn't entirely sure this was a sensible day for it, though. Last night I was at a blisteringly loud gig by my favourite band of all time, and with the memory of that storm and fury still fresh, I had a concern that Naima Bock's soft, delicate music might seem a bit ... well, soft and delicate, in comparison.

But I needn't have worried. Straight away she, and her band, won me over with opening song Toll. It begins with beautiful, soft tune picked out on the guitars and bass, with delicate jazz drumming in the background, then it kicks up a notch and builds into a proper rock crescendo, before dying away into a psychedelic, echoey, extended guitar solo. And that one song sums up Naima Bock's music: it's got everything. But I don't know what to call it. It's too delicate to be rock, too rocky to be jazz, too clever to be pop, too loud to be folk. But it's got a bit of all of that. And it's as mesmerising live as it is on the album.

And I haven't even mentioned her voice, which of course is the real selling point here, and sounds beautiful: high, delicate, beautifully controlled. Just beautiful. All of her band also sing, leading to some great harmonies. And all of her band (drums, bass, guitar/keyboards, saxophone, as well as Naima on acoustic guitar) are top-class musicians. In the middle of the set there's an instrumental (I think it's just called "Instrumental" on the album!) and it shows a band that's musically solid even without vocals.

She speaks very little on stage. She introduces the band, but never introduces any song, not even their titles, leaving the lyrics to convey their own meaning to us. She is reminded to mention the merch on sale, but seems a bit embarrassed even by that. But it's fine, I came to hear her sing, not speak.

They play for a little over an hour, about 10 songs, most of the album but also one or two I don't recognise, and a rocking cover of So Long, Marianne. The set ends with the title track of the album, Giant Palm, which rocks more than the album version and fades into a soft and delicate whisper which ... just sums up the whole experience. This was a superb gig. Go and see Naima Bock and her band if you can.