Portico Quartet, Red, Natalie Duncan – Nottingham Malt Cross, Thursday February 19.
Thanks to the efforts of Nottingham’s excellent Dealmaker Records, the Malt Cross played host to a commendably diverse line-up of artists: a folk/soul singer-songwriter, a beat-boxing turntablist and a Mercury-nominated progressive jazz quartet.
Although visibly shaken by the unavailability of her backing band, coupled with a series of unfortunate technical glitches, local artist Natalie Duncan turned out to be a smouldering revelation. An intense, emotive yet controlled performer, her beautiful vocals carried echoes of early 1970s artists such as Minnie Riperton and Linda Lewis.
Squeezed into the far side of the venue’s uniquely challenging mezzanine stage, Red opened and closed his set with some amazing beat-boxing, his deceptively relaxed demeanour making it all look so easy. His turntable skills were no less impressive – particularly on Seen, his best known track.
They might have started out as South Bank buskers, but the Portico Quartet’s moody, cerebral style is more suited to the concert hall than the pavement these days. As such, their music proved an awkward fit for the convivial, chatty crowd at the Malt Cross. For those with the patience to concentrate, there were ample rewards to be reaped – but despite the undeniably exquisite playing, a little more colour and mischief wouldn’t have gone amiss.