Dan Croll | Live Review

Dan Croll + We The Wild + Jack Garratt @Thekla, Bristol. 28.03.14.

A show that left everyone with the shivers…

Thekla has always been a pretty special venue. Yes, it’s gritty, it’s grimy, it’s packed to the rafters with sixteen year olds trying to get hold of a bevy at the bar – but when you’re stood shoulder to shoulder in its beating heart, completely enthralled by an artist, it’s hard not to be left feeling like you’ve just witnessed something pretty remarkable. The penultimate night of Dan Croll’s UK gig was the perfect example of such an occasion.

Support acts We The Wild and Jack Garratt were in themselves worthy of the top spot, each pulling in and keeping the wholehearted attention of a very excited crowd, even the wallflowers who are usually found propping-up the bar until the main event.

And what a main event it was. Entering the tiny stage – made smaller by the amount of musical paraphernalia crammed upon it - to a dramatic bass-heavy African male choir backing track, Croll and band roll straight into ‘Maway’; a floaty, sweet indie number that gets the crowd swaying enthusiastically to its beachy vibes. It wasn’t the explosive start that many may have been expecting from his recent single releases, but certainly served as a suitable warm-up. From there on in, the mixed crowd bounced and swayed relentlessly, completely mesmerised by the unassuming figure in front of them.

It seems hard to believe that the epitome of geek-chic that is Dan Croll, was once on track to become a top-level rugby player – as he stands before us kitted out in Harry Potter glasses and skinny jeans, vigorously shaking a tambourine. But the unfaltering smiles and camaraderie between Dan and his band on stage, echoed by the joy of the crowd as they belt the lyrics to afro-acoustic single ‘Compliment Your Soul,’ has everyone thanking their lucky stars that one rugby career-ending injury led him to music.

Moving swiftly through numbers from debut album, ‘Sweet Disarray’, the boys slow things down with mellow, piano infused slow-dancer, ‘Can You Hear Me,’ providing just enough time to catch their breath before sending the tempo soaring through the roof again with bouncy, guitar-riddled ‘In/Out.’ But as brilliant as these tracks are, it’s hard not to feel as if the show hasn’t yet reached its best, we haven’t yet seen the real reason that Sir Macca himself sat down for a jam with Dan, other than a fantastic hook and an insane talent for penning love songs (I know, this should be enough, right?).

That is, until we’re punched in the chest with the encore, where it seems the best part truly was left until last. Organ-fuelled radio hit ‘From Nowhere’ really drives the crowd wild, to the point where you briefly wonder whether it’s possible for enough jumping to sink the boat. Thankfully, everything remains intact long enough for acoustic title track, ‘Sweet Disarray’ to grab everyone present by the heartstrings and hypnotise them with a showcase of not only Dan’s, but his band’s impressive vocal range. Perfectly arranged, featuring a surprisingly striking bass, for a moment you could be fooled into thinking you were at a (rather unusual) male voice choir show, rather than an indie-pop extravaganza.

After a show that left everyone with the shivers, one thing is for sure: Dan Croll never stopped smiling all night, and he’ll be smiling for a long time yet.

Watch Dan Croll’s ‘Home’ here:

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