One couldn’t help but think of the Disney classic “Beauty and the Beast” during singer-songwriter Natalie Prass’ High Noon set. She strutted around front stage, carrying all the sass music royalty needs, in a sparkling yellow dress, surrounded by her four-piece band donning dark blue button-ups and topped with fuzzy dark hair.
Prass dazzled, which could have had something to do with the glitter backdrop cascading behind her or the silver eyeshadow she wore. But mainly it was her voice, the subdued alto that flowed beautifully with the jazzy piano. The drum beat and Prass’ smooth guitar-playing remind me of what I imagine a hip 1970s band would play in a smoky club, with a dash of funky R&B.
The crowd bopped along with spunky Prass throughout the show, vibing with the band. Their chemistry was infectious — they looked happy to be jiving to their tunes on that stage. Prass connected with fans, chatting with one about their home state Virginia and smiling at front row swing dancers. She was an electric presence you’d want to be friends with.
The singer shared most of the tracks from her latest album, The Future And The Past. Her lyrics and casual confidence radiated feminist power, particularly in the anthem “Sisters” and jazz-pop jam, “Hot For The Mountain,” when she lowered her volume to warn “We’re slowly rising up.”
The theme of the night seemed to be “powerful women whose voices defy expectations.” Stella Donnelly, the guitar-wielding Australian singer-songwriter, warmed up the crowd. She brought us even further back in time with her flapper-like appearance and soft voice sounding like it was filtered through a crackly 1920s microphone, quivering when she held bold notes.
Stella Donnelly's voice and appearance embodied the boldness of a bygone era. (Alexa Johnson/The Daily Cardinal)
She shared more feminist power ballads like “Boys Will Be Boys,” a name that says it all and is too commonly discussed in this #MeToo era. She was humble, giggling when the audience roared following her powerful finishing song “Mean to Me.” I asked her afterward how she discovered her voice could do that, to which she flashed her incredible smile again and joked, “I have no idea, I still don’t know what I’m doing!”
Donnelly and Prass stopped in Madison during the Midwest leg of a 38-day tour, Donnelly’s first cross-country U.S. performing trek. After her set, I know she’ll be headlining her own tour very soon. The duo is refreshing together, not only because they wear their feelings and feminist power on their sleeves, but because they’re all about playing music and not about the spectacle, as many modern artists are.
Walking through the crowd just after her set like a regular audience member, Donnelly gave out hugs and posed for selfies, even agreeing to chat with a persistent journalist (spoiler alert: that was me). She was giddy simply because people were enjoying her music and humbled to hear people found her lyrics relatable.
“I like that people feel like they can come up and say hi to me after the show, because I’m very normal. Well, relatively normal. I’m just a human as well,” she said. “Everyone’s got their stories, and the more people you meet the more experience you have and the more empathy and compassion you’ve got.”
There’s nothing I love more than a show featuring powerful, talented women, particularly ones with voices as shocking and lyrics as strong as Prass and Donnelly’s. Everyone seemed lighter and happy leaving the venue after dancing off the patriarchy. I hope the singers listen to chants that followed Prass’ encore and come back to Madison with a duet.
Sammy Gibbons is Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work, click here.