Saturday, November 21, 2015

Concert Review: The Danielle Nicole Band @ White Eagle Saloon - Portland, OR 11/14/15

Greetings y'all!  Queen City Steph here from beautiful Seattle, WA.  Big thanks to Fran for asking me to join his crew of music enthusiasts and contribute to My Music, My Concerts, My Life.

Last Saturday, after dealing with a week of emotional lows, I found myself thumbing through the pages of the Willamette Week, one of Portland, Oregon's alternative weeklies, about to play a game of 'live music roulette'.  I needed to get out of Seattle, and Portland always makes a nice weekend getaway spot.  Still grieving over the shocking news of the sudden death of one of my music idols, the Legendary New Orleans musician Allen Toussaint, my eyes were scanning the band listings and show advertisements for any possible signs of an Allen Toussaint Tribute Night, preferably at a quirky Portland piano bar.  No such luck, but as I perused the band listings for the White Eagle Saloon, I locked eyes with the headshot of a cool, confident, no-nonsense brunette who seemed to communicate with me telepathically through the newsprint with a 'Girrrllllll, Getcha Ass Down Here if You Know What's Good For You' kind of stare.  Her name was Danielle Nicole, and the tag line underneath her photo said 'New Orleans style blues and soul'.  I was sold.

The White Eagle Saloon provided an historic backdrop with a mysterious ambience, setting the mood for my 'live music roulette' experience.  With its dim lighting, exposed brick walls, scuffed wood floors, shotgun style layout, and ornate wooden bar, you'd think you were hanging out in a club on Frenchmen Street in the Fauborg Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans.  Mystical and supernatural ephemera decorated the place; there was definitely a buzz in the air, and with gin n tonic in hand I quickly claimed a spot near the small stage snugly set in the back corner before the rest of the crowd engulfed the space.  The crowd was older, a bit seasoned, sprinkled with a few fresh millenial faces.  Murmurs overheard in the audience before the opening act went on stage indicated that I must have done something right in picking this show.  One lady gushed about how Danielle Nicole was an award winning vocalist, while a few other ladies returned from the back room, smiling widely rushing back to their chairs, having just scored show posters with the same headshot of Danielle Nicole used in the ad I saw in the paper.

The opening act, Blind J Wakins, took the stage- a 3 piece bluesy-rootsy outfit that fit perfectly with the dark, old-timey saloon setting.  Their sound was clear, straight forward, not fussy- a drummer laying down a ragtime beat on some songs and shuffling blues beat on others,  a slide guitar adding bluesy flourishes to the clean lead acoustic guitar picking of Blind J Wakins.  Blind J Wakins sang wistful songs about tragic relationships and broken, fragile lovers.  Something about the timbre in his voice reminded me of a young Paul Simon/ Jackson Browne.  His slide guitarist sang beautiful harmony with him at times, sometimes the sound almost eclipsed the guitars.  I enjoyed the clever lyrics in the songs.  In between songs Blind J Wakins talked about the inspirations, recalling back when he was 23 and made a reckless decision to marry a girl after only knowing her for 3 weeks.  Maybe a bad decision for him, but after enjoying the band's set, I knew I made the right decision to come out to see this live show tonight.

After Blind J Wakins ended their set, The Danielle Nicole Band immediately set up their gear on stage.  A drum set, double keyboard, and guitar comprised the back up band, while a spunky, petite girl --Danielle Nicole-- set up her bass and an acoustic guitar in front.  Oh....and some how a theremin made it on stage- rooting itself next to the guitar's set up.  An older gentleman with a long grey ponytail & matching moustache sitting next to me filled me in on the scoop about the Danielle Nicole Band.  He'd seen her years ago in their mid 2000's, performing bass with her brother's band Trampled Under Foot.  Impressed by her bass playing and wailing vocals, he followed the band as it made one more stop some time later in Portland.  Danielle eventually broke off from her brothers' band and started her own.  The show tonight at the White Eagle Saloon would see her debut with her own band, sans brothers.

Danielle Nicole and band finished setting up with sound checks, Danielle hinting at the power in her voice during the final mic check.  Once she was satisfied with the sound, the band hit the stage and bam!  A sonic assault of gale force proportions hit the audience-- the slow burn of the guitar melding with Danielle's bass, the keyboardist banging all over the keys pumping out funky riffs, the drummer always keeping the beat steady, and Danielle Nicole knocking us out with her powerful pipes!  The girl can definitely wail and sing--guttural, deep, sticky-ribs-sweet vocals that command the entire presence of the room!  The full throttle sound emitted by the entire band from the tiny stage was equally impressive.  It was hard to believe that the band could muster the force and energy after having been on a cross country tour with several West Coast dates.  Danielle Nicole's animated presence and singing was mesmerizing- with an execution that came from deep-deep-down in the pit of her soul.

After launching into a rousing set that brought many of the older audience members out on the dancefloor to show off their moves, Danielle explained that the band, hailing from Kansas City, MO, was touring in support of her newly released album, 'Wolf Den', produced by Grammy award winning producer and guitarist, Anders Osborne, down in New Orleans.  While I wouldn't consider The Danielle Nicole Band a true New Orleans band, there are elements of the NOLA sound found in her brand of blues, especially heard in keyboardist Mike 'Shinetop Jr.' Sedovic's playing- from sassy Meters-style organ grooves to Professor Longhair rhumba-influenced piano rolls.  The band capably demonstrated their knowledge of the basic principles of various blues styles, including Chicago blues and the Delta blues sound that inspired the cool syncopated bass fueled Muscle Shoals sound.  But it truly is Danielle Nicole's animated stage presence and powerful vocals that knock you off your feet and hold you in her clutches.

Three quarters of the way into the show, all of her band members left the stage, allowing Danielle Nicole to play a couple songs alone on acoustic guitar.  One was a Dylan cover, and another was a cover of Sam Smith's 'I'm not the Only One.'  Both songs were passionately delivered with every ounce of soul in Danielle Nicole's vocal mastery and expert guitar playing.
After her solo set, the rest of the band joined her to close out the show with a few more covers, the finale being Led Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love' sending the crowd back on to the dancefloor, as Danielle Nicole busted a few moves while jamming on her bass with the rest of the band skillfully delivering their cover version.  That's when the theremin came out....and so did I, but on the dance floor.

My game of 'live music roulette' yielded a positive result for me last Saturday night.  I walked into the White Eagle Saloon not knowing anything about these 2 bands and left with a 'Whole Lotta Love' for some new music.  The next time I head down to Portland, I'm going to look up local band Blind J Wakins for when I want to grab a drink and enjoy a chill evening of crafty vintage blues.  Danielle Nicole blew me away with her charisma and talent.  Her captivating presence as a blues vocalist and multi-talented bassist has definitely carved out a niche for her on the blues scene and I look forward to see where it takes her.  At one point during her set in between songs, Danielle Nicole thanked the audience for 'taking a chance on her and her little band from Kansas City.'  Some day if she comes to a town near you, I encourage you to take a chance on her, too.  You will not be let down!

Life-Love-and-Faith, y'all,
Queen City Steph

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts