David Nail once sang “God Bless America” at a World Series game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers, so it would have been forgivable if he had been in a bad mood Wednesday night.
After all, Nail is a Missouri native and his Cardinals had just suffered a blowout loss to the Boston Red Sox in Gaem 1 of the World Series minutes before he took the stage. If he was bothered, he did a good job of not letting it show.
Instead of moping, Nail introduced the Showbox at the Market crowd to his new look (a short-cropped haircut and looking svelte) and some new songs off his upcoming third album, “I’m a Fire.”
The crowd — decent for a foggy, cold Wednesday night but nowhere near a sellout — took its time getting into the show, but things were rocking once Nail pulled out “Red Light,” a catchy mid-tempo hit from his debut album “I’m About to Come Alive.”
With the room on his side, Nail switched gears and tried out about five new songs. They were in many ways the highlight of the show. It was clear that Nail deeply enjoys the new music he’s recorded and the care he put into choosing songs that translate live was evident.
Nowhere was this more clear than on “Whatever She’s Got,” Nail’s top-20 hit that’s still working its way up the charts. It’s the kind of accessible, up-tempo country pop song that should expose Nail to a broader audience.
In many ways, it’s surprising that Nail isn’t more popular already. He’s got a pleasing voice, a sharp band and is the kind of country artist that’s more comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt than a cowboy hat and a huge belt buckle. It’s no coincidence the crowd on hand mirrored that low-key aesthetic.
The thing that’s stopped him from more mainstream success is probably the types of songs he’s chosen in the past. Nail grew up singing along with his father’s piano, and that tendency to be a balladeer crooning on top of a piano is something that he’s trying to get away from — even if his haunting version of “The Sound of a Million Dreams” was stunned the crowd into silence Wednesday night.
Nail seemed genuinely grateful to be back on the radio with a song that’s performing well. If Wednesday’s preview was any indication, it’s a feeling Nail should start getting used to. “I’m a Fire,” which will come out in 2014 but doesn’t have a release date yet, could be what elevates Nail to the next level.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails