Natalie Duncan @The Forge 23/05/15

4 stars (out of 5)

0

Natalie TitleNatalie Duncan is one of those artists that’s always guaranteed to grab my attention. She plays beautifully, has a powerful and expressive voice and she’s a genuinely original songwriter, so I couldn’t resist going to see her when she was playing in Camden. Her recently released “Black and White” EP with its loops and samples is a world away from the traditional instrumentation and production of “The Devil in Me”, so I couldn’t wait to hear how she would reconcile the two styles in a live setting.

Support on the night came from Chris McDonald, playing his last UK gig before moving to Ireland. His brand of honest and compassionate songwriting combined with a fairly partisan audience, and a band which seemed to add a new member every time you looked away from the stage, set the scene nicely for the evening’s headliner. It’s fair to say that since the initial publicity around “The Devil in Me”, Natalie hasn’t had a particularly high profile, but that doesn’t mean that she’s been forgotten; she still attracts a healthy audience every time she plays. And her creativity is still firing on all cylinders.

The last couple of months have seen a transformation for Natalie Duncan. The musical stylings have changed (she’s working onstage with a guitarist/keyboard player and drummer), but she’s also changed her appearance. The long hair has gone, replaced by a funkier look and the whole package feels like someone drawing a line under the past.

The set started with “Pure” and Natalie sitting at the piano as you would expect, but the second song, “Oh My God”, from the new EP saw her move out of the comfort zone (Natalie’s words, not mine) and stand centre stage with just the microphone between her and the audience. The move out to front and centre didn’t last for long, but it was another sign that things are changing in the way Natalie relates to her audience. The remainder of the set was a mix of material from the new EP (“Black and White” and “Elysium”), new material (“Sonic”, “Plastic” and the excellent “Diamond”) and two album songs to close out the set on a familiar note, “Sky is Falling” (with a lovely guitar solo) and “Uncomfortable Silence”.

Perhaps familiarity with the “Black and White” EP helped a little but the new material, although very different in style from the album songs, seemed to fit neatly with the more familiar piano settings. The two musicians backing Natalie, Tom and Ali, were deliberately self-effacing (apart from one guitar solo), allowing the songs and Natalie’s powerful, yet occasionally fragile, voice to shine through. There were a few technical glitches, but nothing that could suppress the feeling that we were all seeing something a little bit special.

If you want to see Natalie live in London the next week or so, she’s playing at:

The Social, Little Portland Street                    Tuesday May 5 (8pm)

St Pancras Station                                          Wednesday May 6 (5:30pm)

Get yourself down to one of those; you won’t regret it.