Natalie Duncan, Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Wednesday June 28
(originally published in the Nottingham Post)
She might have moved to London, but Natalie Duncan still feels like “one of ours”. Less than a month before the release of her debut album, Devil In Me, she has returned to Nottingham for a short season of shows, giving us a chance to preview the songs and re-acquaint ourselves with her extraordinary talent.
The sixty-minute set began with one of its boldest strokes. The opening lines of the album’s title track (“Sometimes I feel you looking for the devil in me, like I’m a dying dog and I’m begging for your bones”) were delivered unaccompanied, holding us captive and chilling the air.
Switching from raw vocals to elegant, stately keyboards, Natalie briefly calmed the mood, before opening the song up to her four piece band. These included a guitarist in a Miles Davis t-shirt, a glockenspiel player called Hattie, and a drummer called Hendrix. Other, more internationally distinguished players appear on the album, brought in by its Grammy-winning producer, but the young touring outfit did the recorded arrangements full justice.
Although her lyrics don’t exactly shy away from stark soul-baring, Natalie’s songwriting explores other avenues also. Some songs are addressed to friends, such as the spellbinding Flower, which offers touching words of tribute and support. Other songs observe the world around her: Old Rock was inspired by a drunk in a city pub, and Pick Me Up Bar is a caustic commentary on society’s false quick fixes.
The band left the stage for two solo numbers, neither of which appear on the album, and another unrecorded song (I Became So Sweet) closed the show in fine style, hinting at a songwriting stockpile which has barely been mined. Headline sets at Nottingham Contemporary (July 6th) and on Splendour’s Courtyard stage (July 21st) will follow; neither should be ignored.