Betty Who, Nick Checo – 10/3/13 – Middle East

The last time Jessica Newham played at The Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge, she was a college freshman at Berklee and her instrument of choice was the cello. Now, she is Betty Who, rising pop star with stunning vocals, a 3-piece band, and matching red and white outfits. On her first EP, The Movement, Betty Who provides listeners with four dancey pop songs, and on Thursday, a crowd of 200 gathered at The Middle East to see these songs performed live. Most people who attended this show considered themselves lucky, as Betty Who recently signed with RCA and will most likely not play in a venue this small very often anymore.

Most of the crowd consisted of college-aged girls and the occasional gay man, just the demographic that Betty Who’s upbeat electro-pop music attracts. Some were there because they had been fans since the free EP download was released, some were there because of the Home Depot marriage proposal video featuring Somebody Loves You that recently went viral. The show began with her band members taking their places on stage wearing matching outfits: white shirts sporting “Who Crew” in bold black letters under red knit cardigans. Betty leaped on to stage, wearing a white dress, another red cardigan, and grungy white converse that I suspect are the ones featured in the album art of the Somebody Loves You single.  “If Princess Diana and Beyonce had a baby, it would be me,” says the six-foot-two platinum blonde girl. Seeing the presence that she has, not just physically but musically, it is not hard to imagine Betty Who as the combination of these two fabulous people. She was already dancing and smiling before she even belted out her first note and she kept this up throughout the whole show, clearly displaying her natural ability to perform.

She opened the show with “You’re In Love,” one of the four songs off her EP, and the crowd immediately follows along with her contagious dance moves. Although Betty Who only has four officially released songs, she had no trouble filling up her 45-minute set. She played three unreleased songs, one which she described as “if Prince and Abba had a baby”. A stripped-down cover of the R&B song Use Me was also performed, showing off her exceptional vocal talent. Also, Since Betty turned 22 that next Saturday, she joked about playing a cover of Taylor Swift’s 22. Not only was her own talent displayed, the talent of her band members was also exhibited. The music for the slower song off the EP, Right Here, was played with just synthesizer, while the cover was played with only bass.

There was high energy throughout the whole performance and proved that this pop star regards quality over quantity. After the show ended, she pointed to the back of the room and invited the crowd to come introduce themselves and take photos, which was pleasantly surprising. It is evident that she has a chance of joining the ranks of mainstream popstars, such as Katy Perry and Lorde, with the performances she puts on and the attitude she has.

Nick Checo’s opening singer-songwriter act was similar to that of Betty Who’s in that it was short and sweet. The initial vibe given off from Nick’s relaxed voice was that of a Jack Johnson doppelganger, which was later confirmed when he revealed that Jack Johnson was his inspiration for taking up guitar and also when he proceeded to play a cover. Some of his songs were performed with just an acoustic guitar, while his reggae songs were played with a backing track. His lyrics were not the most original, but they were easy to pick up on by audience members who had never heard his music before. Pretty soon, most people were grooving and singing along to the lines, “I’m so faded, faded, faded, faded”, while Nick waved one hand in the air and held the mic with the other. His relaxed performance was a pleasant contrast to Betty Who’s upbeat set, giving the crowd a taste of a different side of pop music.

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