Gig Review: Danni Nicholls at The Jim Marshall Auditorium, The Stables – Milton Keynes – 10th November 2018
Read a few of my previous reviews of Danni Nicholls, by clicking this convenient link, and you’ll see just how much I love her music. Thanks to being in France in June, train problems in the summer and other issues the weekend of The Long Road, I would have seen Danni live six times in 2018 before last Saturday’s gig in Milton Keynes. As it was, this was my 4th Danni Nicholls gig of the year, which isn’t so bad really. I went with my gigging buddy Johnny who had started listening to Danni after seeing and hearing me talk about her music, a lot. So after a cheeky Nando’s (is there any other kind?), it was off to at The Stables, and my first visit to a venue that lay at the end of a windy country road.
I’ve seen Danni at The Borderline in London, in a record club in Bedford, at a festival in Bedford and a cocktail bar in Bedford, but this was the first time I was going to see Danni Nicholls play with a band. Previously it had just been Danni and her guitar, which let me tell you, is more than sufficient for a top class night of music. There were a lot of instruments and mic stands on the stage, so I could see we were in for something special.
The band came out and started playing, and then 30 seconds later Danni walked out on stage, presented as the star attraction she is. She kicked off with back to back songs from her upcoming album The Melted Morning, which would be a theme for the evening. As much as I love Danni’s back catalogue, hearing her new music is always a treat, and I got to hear even more of the new songs than I had at previous gigs. The full band sound was fantastic, and the new songs are really quite wonderful. Both on stage, and in the writing of her new music, I witnessed a very comfortable Danni Nicholls, and the next step in the evolution of her songwriting. This new album is going to be absolutely brilliant, with that trademark combination of vocal range, inspiring lyrics and smouldering soul that only Danni Nicholls can offer.
As much as I was excited to hear the new material, it was equally great to hear songs I thought I knew very well, presented in this full band format. The musicians and backing singers (one of whom was support act Hannah Rose Platt, who’d done a great job opening the evening) added a lot of depth and layers to favourites such as A Little Redemption and Beautifully Broken, the latter being my favourite Danni Nicholls song and always a delight to hear. It was quite surreal seeing someone else play the signature riffs that I’m so used to seeing Danni play on guitar herself, but the band and backing singers were all top notch and complimented Danni superbly. Danni looked to be having the time of her life, and didn’t for one second look out of place on a stage she’d grown up wanting to play on. As a huge fan of Danni, there was no doubt I was always going to enjoy this gig, but I’ve rarely seen a whole crowd of people react in the way they did. People were dancing, whooping, singing and showing huge amounts of respect and appreciation with their rapturous applause and standing ovations.
I’m a person who is very aware of time, and I can hand on heart say that this is the first gig I can remember where I didn’t look at my watch once. Well, that is until Danni and band bowed to a huge reaction and it looked like we were done for the night. It was just a few minutes before the slated end time, so I thought that there was a chance we wouldn’t get an encore. Well, I was wrong, thankfully, and out they came again for not one but two more songs. The last was a song that we were due to hear at the Bears & Tales gig, but ran out of time, so I was thrilled to finally hear Goodnight Moon live. The final song on her debut album A Little Redemption album and the perfect bookend to a spectacular evening of music. The gig actually finished this time and everyone was on their feet. The reaction was incredible, and so well deserved. Wow, that was something else. It was the kind of gig that only comes around every now and then, and fills your heart with joy and had me smiling from the very first second to the last, and for a long time afterwards. It was a career-defining gig for Danni Nicholls and a life-defining one for me as a fan.
Back in the bar and foyer area a lot of people waited to meet Danni and get things signed, and when she walked out everyone cheered and clapped, again. I’ve not seen such a warm and honest reaction from fans of an artist anywhere else, and it was evident that as both a musician and a person, Danni has touched a lot of people. It was great to be able to let Danni know much I’d enjoyed her performance, and thank her for putting on such a great show. I still have to pinch myself that someone whose music I admire so much and means so much to me, is so accessible and welcomes me like a friend every time I see her. I know being a good person isn’t a prerequisite of being a great musician, but it’s heartwarming when they are.
I’d commented to Danni a few days before that she needed some new merchandise as I had everything already. She replied that she had some especially for that night, and she certainly came up trumps. I bought a mini guitar, poster for that night’s gig (which looks amazing and will be framed and hung on the lounge wall) and a bracelet for my wife Denise made from one of Danni’s old guitar strings and which had beads recycled from family items. The first two she kindly signed and even asked who she should make the poster signing out to, knowing the whole family are big fans. My buddy Johnny had a great time too and certainly came away an even bigger fan of Danni Nicholls, as did I.
What an amazing night it was – a musical performance of the absolute highest quality, in a superb venue, and surrounded by a whole bunch of great people. Speaking of which, a big thank you to Danni’s manager Graham and to her family members who I met and were a delight. I’d been thinking about my favourite gigs of the year recently, and already had one from Danni Nicholls in my top 10. Well, this one is going straight into that list, and I’ll tell you right now that it’s fighting for the top spot. You’ll have to come back and read that list later in the year to see for yourself where it places, and the other 9 too. I’ll finish by saying that not only did Danni Nicholls live up to her own high standard, but she raised the bar even higher. Anyone out there who doesn’t have the music of Danni Nicholls in their life is missing out big time, take it from me.