Review: Natalie Duncan, Arts Theatre, by Peter Palmer
She got off to an unexpected start when she trod on her reviewer's toes in the theatre bar before the gig. It is, though, an extremely narrow bar, and Natalie Duncan apologised most charmingly.
The budding rhythm 'n' blues and soul diva had little else to say sorry for – save an awkward hiatus when a couple of her band were slow coming back from a break.
While 75 minutes is not the longest of sets, this one lacked nothing in quality. Nor is it bad policy to leave people wishing for more.
Following a sold-out concert at Birmingham Glee Club, Duncan drew another full house in surroundings hardly less intimate. Daughter of an Anglo-Greek father and a Jamaican mother, she studied music at New College in Nottingham.
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Since then, professional music-making has entailed the inevitable rites of passage. Such as being built up in one national newspaper and knocked down in another. No matter – here we keep our feet on the ground
Her songs, Duncan rightly feels, can speak for themselves, but it was good to learn about the local character behind Old Rock: "There's a grey transparence in this city / When it's slightly misty / And no one can run..."
Good, too, to experience live her full-blooded performances of other recorded tracks. The set commenced with her scorching unaccompanied prelude to Devil In Me, the title song of an exuberant debut album.
The full band comprised guitars (not sparing on the reverbs), drums, double bass and a girl singer on glockenspiel. The lady herself played keyboard. Lightly scored to begin with, her song Grace featured taut vocal harmonies before swelling into a funky power ballad.
With its infectious hooks, her music addressed a tidy range of subjects. Duncan can do plaintive, furious or conciliatory, each time evoking a particular milieu.
She went walkabout – exhibiting spangly trousers to complement the cloche hat – for a pulsating rendition of Pick Me Up Bar. A location, of course, that has nothing to do with the bar in George Street.