Gig Review: Angaleena Presley & Danni Nicholls at The Borderline, London – 20th July 2017
I was supposed to see Angaleena Presley back in July 2015, twice in fact, on my birthday and then the day after too. But due to family sickness that didn’t happen, and in the meantime, and with a second album under her belt, my admiration for Angaleena’s music and desire to see her live have only grown. Fast forward to 22nd April this year (yes I do know exact date thanks to never deleting emails) and the opportunity to buy tickets for a 2017 tour arose, and without hesitation I booked them. Fingers crossed we’d atually make it to the gig this time.
Last Thursday, July 20th 2017, and I made my wife Denise queue outside The Borderline for 30 minutes before doors opened, and we weren’t even at the front. Once inside we went straight towards the stage and managed to get front and centre. Aside from a risky venture to the bar at about 7.20pm for water, that’s where we stayed for the next 3+ hours. At the start of the evening it wasn’t Densie’s preferred place to stand, very still, and wait, but that would change. Seeing just a microphone and guitar stand on stage I was excited for the upcoming performannces, and very glad we were positioned where we were.
Going into this gig I didn’t know Danni Nicholls, but that has is no relection on her standing in the music scene, more of me not being as up to date as I was back in the days when I ran 4000 Miles to Nashville, and incidentally interviewed Angaleena for here. Danni came on stage, guitar in hand and smile on her face. She spoke confidentally, but humbly, and at this point I wasn’t sure what to expect, but her demenor had certainly endeared her to us. Then she started to sing, and play, and with that rich voice, full of soul, accompanied by dexterously enviable guitar skills, I knew I’d disovered a special talent.
I could be wrong, but I think it was Mary Gauthier at the Maverick Festival in 2014, who said that Americana is hard to describe, but you’ll know it when you hear it. That’s what I felt with Danni Nicholls, as her storytelling both through her songs and in between, is clever, honest and at times heart breaking. I mentioned before about Danni’s guitar playing and during her third song, which you’ll have to excuse for me not remembering the name of, I focused entirely on her hands, and marvelled as the left hand had fingers floating around the fretboard almost independently, whilst her right hand strummed and plucked with ease. This wasn’t an instrumental, so add in vocals, sung with the same heart and palpable emotion is her whole set, and I was in awe.
The only negative is that her set was just a little over 30 minutes, leaving me wanting more of that velvety smooth voice. I have a feeling what I saw of Danni Nicholls last Thursday was only the tip of the iceberg, and I’ll be keeping an eye on that tour that she mentioned when I chatted to her later in the evening. I spent all but the last penny I had in my pocket, and Denise’s wallet, getting Danni’s Mockingbird Lane album, that she happpily signed (getting things signed, in person, is a big thing for me, so being able to add more such items to the collection is always a thrill), and which has been played more than a few times over the past few days. Doing a bit more digging I see that not only does she have her debut album which she told us about at the gig, but she has this year released a live album too. I’m a HUGE fan of live music recordings, when done right, so on the top of my to buy list is now Danni Nicholls ‘The Vintage TV Recordings’.
At just a few minutes past 9pm on Thursday 20th July 2017, Angaleena Presley took the stage at The Borderline in London, and what followed was an hour or so of raw emotion, sung flawlessly by the one person I’d wanted to see more than any other in the last 3 years. Angaleena’s two solo albums are amongst my absolute favourites, full of songs from the heart, covering topics what she wants to sing about and in the style she wants to perform them in, undeterred by industry trends. Angaleena wasn’t shy about sharing her thoughts on the mainstream country music scene, and I and many others I’m sure, wholeheartedly agree. This was highlighted hilariously by Country, the 4th song on her recent Wrangled album. On said album it’s a heavily produced song, purposefully in the style of the music she is deservedly mocking, but it took on a new life with just her and her guitar, and had me smiling and whooping from start to finish.
This is what makes Angaleena Presley stand apart from so many others in the music. Aside from the fact that she has a silky smooth voice and is one of the best song writers around, her sense of humour is unrivaled, both in song and when she chatted to us in between. It was like being at a one woman songwriters evening, as she had us all in stitches regaling stories of her life and family, and using enough self depreciation to fit right at home here in England. It’s that personality that kept us enthralled even during a two minute period where her guitar strings just would not tune, refusing like petulant children to play ball.
Thanks to Country to Country and the eagerness of many US country stars to tour in the UK, coupled with an ever increasing number of home grown talents, I have had the privelage of seeeing many country artists perform over the years. However none, and I mean not one single one, can hold a candle to Angaleena Presley. She really is the total package on stage and has certainly raised the bar of expectation for me now. I can still see her wry grin as she swaggered through a guitar solo, not missing a beat as she returned to the mic, to once again fill the venue with her beautiful voice. Thankfully one last song turned into two, as Better Off Red (I think) rounded off a spellbinding and soul enriching performance.
As it was announced that she would be coming to meet fans after she’d finished playing, my focus went from being at the front of the stage, to being as close to the front of the line and at the back of the venue as I could. If you want the full experience you have to be prepared to put in the effort, even if that does mean having people invade your personal space far more than is usually acceptable. Already owning a signed copy of Wrangled on CD I bought a copy on vinyl, which she signed as we chatted more about Country to Country and her previous tour, while I gushed about her performance that night.
What a night. Not only did I finally get to see Angaleena Presley live and it exceeded even my lofty expectations, but I now have Danni Nicholls’ career to follow with keen interest. This will go down as one my absolute favourite gigs, and one I’ll remember fondly for a very long time.