Who says familiarity breeds contempt? Dani Wilde has become a regular visitor to Cologne/Bonn in recent years but every visit has been very different. With Sam Fish and Casisie Taylor on Blues Caravan, with her own Band, and on Tuesday, with an acoustic trio. Dani Wilde & Friends saw Brighton’s Blues Belle bring her infectious enthusiasm and soul laden voice to Colognes Yardclub.
It seems like most of the audience have stayed overnight from Cassie Taylors appearance here yesterday. Familiar faces that make up the cornerstone of the Blues scene in the area. People who are as responsible for the excellent music that comes here as the musicians who take the stage. Some are discussing the poster referring to GEMA’s latest plans and the possibility that Kantine/Yardclub might be amongst the many live venues that will disappear if new regulations come into force. As on the previous evening it’s not a huge audience, and no one is going to make a lot of money out of the music that’s played. The sad thing is that the musicians onstage this evening and last night aren’t in it to be millionaires, they love making music. These are the people GEMA are supposedly in the business of helping – and they instead are in danger of leaving them with nowhere to play.
I’ll try to be more cheerful though. Dani Wilde’s broad smile and ‘Hi’ when I saw her walk in the Yardclub door are a good place to start. The evening is labelled ‘Dani Wilde & Friends’ although it should be more accurately ‘Dani Wilde, Brother & Friend’. The Brother is of course Will on Blues harp (and tonight also on Cajon drum) and the friend is a very capable guitarist by the name of Stuart Dixon.
The evening gets off to a low key start with the Gospel Blues classic ‘Wade in the Water’ and before we know it we are indeed wading. The water isn’t just Blue either. Dani’s singing just gets better every time I see her and the sound that Mike Griot and Thomas Ruf maybe had to work on a bit for her debut 2008 disc ‘Heal My Blues’ is now hers literally ‘out of the box’.
Whether pure emotion as on ‘Don’t give up on Me’, Rock ‘Let Me Show You’ or Gospel ‘Sweet Inspiration’, Dani introduces each with her sweet, lisp tinged, accent before delivering powerful, emotive vocals to knock your socks off.
Dani’s ‘Friends’ are also a lot more than the ‘backing band’. As she announces: “I stole Stuart (Dixon). I stole him from Geno Washington, I stole him from Eddie Floyd…” and it’s clear why. Dixon has an ear for underpinning the melody just enough to make the difference without getting too much on the radar and distract from the main act. It’s particularly important here because it allows Will Wilde to do the colouring in on Harp which he does impeccably. It’s Dani’s gig and that’s clear, but Will gets plenty of time to shine, particularly on his own ‘Angel Came Down’.
Part two begins with just Dani, her guitar and her voice, for a simply breathtaking version of the Nazareth classic ‘Love Hurts’. There are other cover songs on the setlist too including a surprise in the form of Foy Vance’s ‘Shed a Little Light’ and a John Lee Hooker medley, but the ‘almost’ highlight of the evening was a Cajon powered rendition of Warren Haynes ‘Don’t let nobody drag your spirit Down’. I say ‘almost’ the highlight because Dani played a song that was requested during the break “Which I was going to play anyway” she laughed. Then the lights are turned down, the emotion is turned up, and she starts to sing. About a World where weapons are worth more than people, where death is a daily part of life, and where children are forgotten. ‘Abandoned Child’ was written about Norah, a small girl in Kenya whom Dani met on a visit there several years ago. The girl is now nine but very little else has changed in her Country. I’ve heard Dani do this number both with her full band and with the Blues Caravan but on this evening, with Will’s beautiful Harp accompaniment and solo, it was absolutely chilling.
How does this petite young girl have enough room inside her body for such a large well of emotion? The light flickers off at the close and there is silence from everyone.
Thank goodness for that infectious smile back on Dani’s face to make us all happy again. Guitar cases, boxes and bags are strewn around the stage and she kicks one out of her way, remarking with a twinkle of a smile “This stage is like my bedroom at home!”. Which is actually a good way to describe one of her concerts – like one of those evenings you had as a teenager, visiting your best friend and disappearing off to their bedroom to hear the latest disc on their record player. Dani Wilde has the ability to make us all feel like we’re her best friends in her bedroom, listening to the records she’s just bought and wants to share with us. When she plays ‘Just a Boy Child’ inspired by Oli Brown, it’s like the chat in the bedroom between those records about the latest ‘crush’. All that’s missing is a mother shouting up the stairs for us to turn the noise down and say it’s time for bed.
Finally it does indeed become time to ‘turn the ‘noise down and go home to bed’. We’ve all been privileged to see and hear three musicians who have no pretensions to be anything other than even better musicians making music the way they want to. On the merchandise stall they are as keen to tell people how much they love Foy Vance as they are to sign autographs and sell CD’s. I leave for home almost thinking I have to be at school the next morning – and was that Mum asking me if I had a nice time at my friend Dani’s house when I quietly turned the key in the latch after midnight?