GIGWATCH: Denai Moore @ The Bodega Social Club (Nottingham)

Written by Rahoul Naik

Denai Moore is enchanting and graceful on first night of debut headline tour.

Monday evenings aren’t notorious for being big gig nights, for any genre, but it seemed right for Denai Moore to kick off her ‘We Used To Bloom’ tour in the heart of the country, Nottingham. We went down to our new favourite haunt, Bodega, to get the full Denai Moore experience.

Opening up the gig was Nottingham born, London living alternative soul singer, Joy Mumford. Joy’s sound and vibe could be best described as the lovechild of Corinne Bailey Rae and SZA. From the off, Mumford showed a vocal range and ability to control her voice that proved she deserved to be up there. Assisted only by her acoustic guitar and guitarist, Mumford was able to fill the room with smiles and introspectiveness as she got through her set of original songs. A mixed crowd had started to gather, although it was more noticeable that there were more young people, especially students, than last time we were at Bodega, with many coming to support Joy time in the spotlight. In the second half of her set, Joy showcased her story-telling abilities with My Child, and her ability to bring the audience in with her emotion and actions really helped to understand where the song was coming from. The choice of John Legend’s Ordinary People cover was a blessing and a curse on the night. She sung it terrifically and even got the now 40-strong crowd to sing-a-long with her, yet one can get a little to bogged down in trying to compare it to the original instead of listening to the rendition in from of you, something I could see on the faces of those standing around the edges. Mumford was a fantastic warm-up act for Denai’s prop and instrument filled stage and we’re sure to see more of Joy as time goes on.

“My favourite part of playing is realising how music really contexts us all! It’s amazing to share something that’s so intimate to me, that are really just transferable feelings and emotions.”

Some may not have noticed Denai perched at the bar throughout Joy’s set, perhaps they were way more eager to sing Ordinary People than others no doubt. Yet, even Denai’s understated presence already had me perceiving her set to be laid-back, calm and chilled – which to some extent it was.

Set up with 4 other band members on stage: lead guitar, bass, drums, trumpet/drum pad and Denai playing a whole bunch of other stuff, you could tell they spent some time perfecting it. The stage has two beautifully crafted props on either side, like earrings for the night, in the form of two flower shrubs (to continue the theme of the album). As Denai and co got into the first song, Trickle, the lights dimmed and the mood intensified for what was about to be the definitive Denai Moore experience.

“Life and how I exist in it is my biggest influence lyrically. But I’m inspired by film/photography a lot lately.”

Although Trickle started a little understated, I think the tech guys were trying to get the levels right for Denai’s voice as the second track came crashing through with a much more driven sound. Leave It Up To You comes half-way through the album but playing it early on helped Denai created and mould the artistic space she was in for the night and it was like you could see the emotion in her voice getting a foot in the door here. Throughout the track, you can see her big smile coming through, she loves to perform and we know it. As the song finished she confesses to the crowd ‘This is my first gig in Nottingham, and it’s lit”, to which the crowd reciprocated with ‘whoop’s and a lot of clapping.

“Does it Get Easier? is a lot of fun to play live! Recording those toms in the studio was my favourite album moment, so it’s lovely to relive that every night!”

Does It Get Easier? is perhaps one of the more catchy and known songs on the LP, and Denai told us how rewarding it was to her for finishing it and being able to play it live. She’s much louder and prouder about this song as she sways and jives a bit with the toms on the track. You could see her loosening up on stage and that helped encourage some of the audience to bust out body rolls and much more.

Interestingly, Denai wasn’t keen to stop after every track, instead picking and choosing when to roll from track to track. It actually really helped her get through more tracks on the night but also it kept the momentum and energy flowing in the room. It really did feel like the album was being presented in life form and the range of instruments on show helped demonstrate how boxing Denai into a single box would be foolish.

Denai even played some tracks from her last project, Elsewhere, that really showed her sonic evolution from 2015 to now, with her new stuff sounding a little more experimental and sonically sophisticated. However, the crowd loved it with the funkier sounding tunes getting a great reception with chants of ‘tuneage’ ringing around the venue. It was around this mark where you felt like the drummer was being allowed to stretch his arms a bit more and have some fun too.

“Right now I’m listening to Everything Everything’s new record and Tyler The Creators record, such different albums sonically, but so well produced and written.”

Denai finished her set with Desolately Devoted and All the Way, the latter originally featuring Kwabs. These tracks really gave Denai’s essence some meaning with mellow percussion, electronic keys and synths, a dash of brass and some serious vocals. Even when the guitarist, Polly, took over vocal duty towards the end, you could really tell they were not just ‘supporting’ but were part of the whole vibe.

Denai is down to earth, open, honest and a gem for the UK music scene. The effort she puts into the artistic direction of her look, sound and everything else shows how much she lives and breathes the messages in her music. There is still time to see her in a city near you and we would wholly recommend the experience.

Remaining Tour Dates:

29 September – Brighton – Komedia Studio

02 October – Birmingham – The Hare and Hounds

03 October – Leeds – Headrow House

04 October – Glasgow – Stereo

05 October – Dublin – Whelan’s

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