Saturday, 27 April 2019

GIG REVIEW: Danni Nicholls - Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham. Friday 26th April 2019

The current phase of Danni Nicholls’ music career took a step nearer completion as she returned to Birmingham for the penultimate show of a first ever trio tour. To further initiate a year of change, the services of guitarist Thomas Dibb and bassist Mark Lewis added an extra dimension to how an increasing catalogue of impressive songs are presented in a live environment. An audience choosing the Midlands Arts Centre for their Friday night entertainment fix were left in little doubt that this format proved a winner. 

Patience was likely to be the order of the day as new album THE MELTED MORNING meandered on a journey from creative inspiration to album launch tour. Joy for reaching the latter filled the air in the Hexagon Theatre of Birmingham’s MAC venue. A mutual feeling not only exuding from the stage, but felt in an audience frequented by many long term fans  bound by providing unconditional support. 

Listening to Danni guide her songs down an alternative channel proved a fascinating experience when first hearing the album. This process continued with the live presentation where a balanced setlist created a sense of equilibrium in terms of the old and the new. Interestingly the songs tended to be chunked in small relatable groups with the opportunity to share origins meticulously grasped. 

One early conclusion re-enforced from this gig was how the older songs have strengthened to find a niche in the midst of the new arrivals. ‘Beautifully Broken,' Long Road Home,'A Little Redemption’ and ‘Travellin’ Man’ were just four examples of those stoically fighting their corner. Of course, familiarity likely plays a significant part, but the concept of maturing being a process of enhancement is vivid here. 

A dominant feature of the new songs is the co-writing route that Danni headed down. Maybe prior knowledge of those in collaboration helps form an opinion and this is absolutely the case with a couple shared this evening. Close your eyes, imagine a seismic vocal change and ‘Wild as the Water’ could quite easily appear on an album by its co-writer Ben Glover. Likewise, the soulful input offered by Kyshona Armstrong on ‘Hear Your Voice’ steers Danni down a new path, working as wonderfully effective on stage as in the studio. 

As much as co-writing played a major part in the new record (Jess Morgan and Jaimee Harris were also credited during the between song chat), versatility in Danni Nicholls songwriting is still intact as evidenced by the beautiful and emotionally-laced ‘Hopeless Romantic’, one requiring no assistance in the writing process, and a touching notion felt by all. 

The roles played by her two talented accomplices cannot be understated in evaluating the merit of this gig. Thomas Dibb (known previously here for his work with Lauren Housley) effortlessly moved between multiple guitars and occasional  piano. The adaption and vocal space delivered created a wonderful canvas for the songs to flourish. A similar role adopted by Mark Lewis, rotating the electric and upright bass as dictated by the mood of the songs. More of the same sometime in the future is called for.

Inspiration from the wide and wonderful world of American roots music has long featured in the DNA of Danni Nicholls, though it sketches rather than defines where she takes her sound and style. Incorporating a cover of ‘Jolene’ plants a distinguished mark, not exactly revolutionary, but markedly symbolic. The capability of penning a good country song will never leave Danni and this trait is likely to appear in the future. 

Nobody investing in any aspect of Danni Nicholls’ music will ever be short changed. Evolution without compromise is an appropriate tagline for an artist who consistently delivers in whatever format circumstances dictate. Spring 2019 will favourably etch into the annals of Danni Nicholls when the dust settles. The MAC, Thomas Dibb, Mark Lewis and a grateful audience played a small part. Danni Nicholls did the rest.