Oslo, Hackney – September 28th
The album art for Denai Moore’s We Used To Bloom is everywhere – so specifically does that warm all encompassing orange suit her sound that, whatever it’s called, they should rename it ‘Denai Orange’. We Used To Bloom is a heady emotional record full of home truths and big vocals – it’s with high expectations that the audience awaited her set at Hackney’s Oslo.
Unfortunately, from the off, it’s clear this venue isn’t right for this sound. While not massive it’s not intimate enough for what Denai does – her voice certainly fills the space but it doesn’t silence it. The audience is divided in two camps – one indifferent and the other, devout Deani fans shouting ‘YASSSSSS’ at every opportunity. This lack of middle ground makes Denai’s job harder – she needs to work to bring everyone in, to convert them to her orange. But she doesn’t; she plays it safe.
Interactions with the audience are kept short and those live moments where the artist should go offbook and let their instinct soar – those moments which are the lifeblood of live music – just don’t come. Yes her execution is faultless and, yes, there are moments of beauty – ‘Does It Get Easier?’ was a highlight – but overall the gig feels too neat, too committed to keeping to time and too safe.
If this was a debut album, lack of experience could be factored in but Denai has been around long enough. While there’s a charm in that resistance to expectation, it still has to be executed correctly: the venue needs to be smaller; they need to stop playing with the lights and the support act needs to be chosen more wisely (Martin Luke Brown played a genuinely gorgeous set, but tonally wasn’t the right lead in for Denai). Curation is everything otherwise that fine line between being embraced by the orange and stifled by it is a little too blurred.