Natalie Duncan - Half Moon, Putney - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Natalie Duncan - Half Moon, Putney

by James Bray Rating: Release Date:

I didn't know anything about Natalie Duncan before going to see her at this little gig in London. She's petite, pretty and feline, and has that bluesy-boozy attitude about her. She can also really sing, so I initially feared that this could be some dangerously sub-Amy Winehouse act but she soon proved herself to be much more than that.

Duncan has great vocals but she's still clumsy with her talent, getting a bit lost in plaintive oh-woe-ohs in many of her songs; imagine the best soul singers from TV talent shows. On top of this she is a really good piano player and it sounds like a certain amount of classical training has worked its way into her bluesy pop songs.

She started off playing covers in the pubs and clubs of Nottingham and graduated from there, eventually signing to Verve Records. At this gig she was playing with a full band whose smart dress and retro instruments sparked a lot of the Amy, Amy, Amy comparisons. This approach may be the insidious influence of the record company. However, the dynamic between Duncan and her band-mates worked well and allowed her to assert her own musical identity.

At the beginning of the show, Duncan sat all petite and unassuming behind her piano and belted out earnest soul songs like 'The Devil in Me' and 'Sky is Falling.' The tunes are really good although they are sometimes limited by a lack of originality in lyrics or sentiment; the more MOR tracks adhere too much to the approved register of commercial neo-soulsters like Alicia Keys.

In saying that, the fact that she actually has her own songs- and just doesn't play in a particular tone or style - is what separates people like Duncan from all the other aspiring musicians, struggling in their tiny, thrift-store clothes. As the gig went on Duncan gained confidence and went from being the demure nightclub singer to being a bit of a pop star.

The songs that really used the accompanying band were some of the best and allowed Duncan to leave the piano stool behind for a spell. In these songs Duncan seemed to be liberated from some of the heavier conventions of singer/songwriting. This allowed her to really engage with the audience. The set was very professional and was comprised of about 10 songs. This gig demonstrated a lot of the facets of Natalie Duncan's personality; the naive teenage prodigy, the singer-songwriter, the wannabe burnout and possibly the star in the making.

There were also two other acts on the bill that evening. The first was Nova's Basement which was nice - imagine Alicia's Attic with a cellist and a violinist, and Billy Lockett who plays energetic indie music for teenagers- imagine The Kook.

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