Natalie Duncan @ The Tabernacle

5 stars (out of 5)

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1 of my pix from the Tabernacle gig tonight.  More to follow over the weekend on www.musicriot.co.uk. What a great show.Normally I make a point of seeing the support act at a gig; it’s only polite, especially if you get a review pass and a plus one.  Well, apologies to Billy Lockett; a combination of bad weather, bad public transport and Plus One’s hunger pangs meant that I only caught half a song of Billy’s set.  I’ll have to make up for that some time soon, because I really liked what I heard.

The Tabernacle performance area is a gallery theatre above a bar and social space in Notting Hill and it’s the perfect setting for a performance by one of the great breakthrough British artists of 2012.  Natalie Duncan is hugely talented songwriter, singer and player whose first album “Devil in Me” is easily one of the best albums of 2012 and this tour of intimate venues may be the last time you get a chance to see her up this close for a while.

After the low-key entrance, without a big MC introduction, the show started in the same way as the album with the a cappella intro to “Devil in Me” demonstrating Natalie’s phenomenal voice before the band slid effortlessly in to back up this tale of a destructive relationship.  The band dress code was mid-60s smart suits, which gave the gig a feeling of being set on the sound stage of “The Hour”.  The arrangements are more stripped-back than on the album but the four musicians on stage provide electric and acoustic guitars, electric and double bass, xylophone and backing vocals to supplement Natalie’s soulful vocals and playing.

By the third song in (“Sky is Falling”) the audience were transfixed and we all knew that we were seeing something special.  Playing with a small band and losing some of the big arrangements from the album demonstrates the strength of the songs; the album is a fine piece of work, but the songs stand up perfectly well with more intimate arrangements, including solo piano and vocal, and that’s the measure of a great song.

The set included “Songbird”, “Black Thorn”, the great “Old Rock”, the show-stopping “Became So Sweet” and “Uncomfortable Silence” from the album, plus a few songs, including the lovely “Grace”, which were new (or at least not on the album)and demonstrated that Natalie knows how to pace a live set; every song flowed perfectly into the next.  At the end of the set (and the encore) she was rewarded with a genuine standing ovation from an audience that recognised a truly talented performance and celebrated a unique songwriting talent.  It’s obvious that Natalie is feeling more comfortable with the centre-stage position (I suppose supporting Muse couldn’t harm the self-confidence) and she looks as if she’s relaxed on stage which helps build a rapport with an audience which is already firmly supportive.

So, “Devil in Me” is one of my top five albums of the year and I know that Natalie Duncan can deliver a stunning live experience; what more can I say?  If you haven’t bought or listened to “Devil in Me”, then you need to put that right straight away.  After that you need to look out for the next tour on her website or Facebook page and go out and decide for yourself; you won’t be disappointed.

And keep an eye out for a gallery of photos from the gig in the next few days.