Marking the halfway point of dodie’s UK Human tour, Rock City was absolutely rammed for the English singer-songwriter, author and YouTuber’s Nottingham show. dodie brought emotion and unity to all of her hardcore fans who fully embraced the opportunity to sing along and support her, the gig becoming more of a celebration of overcoming life’s obstacles than of dodie’s music.
We arrived in time for the support act, Kawala, who pulled out all the stops with their musical talent, personality and summery vibe. The alternative indie-folk five-piece created an immediate rapport with the audience, Daniel McCarthy on guitar and vocals sarcastically describing their band name as “kind of edgy because it’s spelt wrong”.
“The combination of their infectious liveliness and the emotion in their songs, particularly the brand new ‘Heavy in the Morning’, brought the crowd together”
Kawala reminded me of a laidback Hudson Taylor with their tight harmonies and endless energy onstage, lead singer Jim Hegson’s vocals similar to that of Tom Odell’s, being fairly soothing but with a naturally rough edge – McCarthy and Hegson’s voices very much complemented one another. They seem to draw on Bombay Bicycle Club’s guitar-led music, their cohesion as a band and upbeat songs such as ‘Do It Like You Do’ getting people clapping and dancing along despite not knowing the words. The combination of their infectious liveliness and the emotion in their songs, particularly the brand new ‘Heavy in the Morning’, brought the crowd together, creating an extremely supportive and enthusiastic atmosphere in preparation for dodie’s set. Kawala certainly made sure we didn’t forget their name.
Then came the moment everyone was waiting for: dodie’s arrival. Bathed in a spotlight, she opened with ‘Arms Unfolding’, setting a fairly sombre mood before launching into ‘Monster’, skipping across the stage and dancing along as the crowd sang it back at her word-for-word. It was clear from the start that this wasn’t a gig for the casual fans, it was for those who follow her fervently.
“The show seemed to instead revolve around creating an atmosphere of solidarity for all who have experienced heartbreak, mental health issues and homophobia”
As someone who likes her music but does not keep up with her as a YouTube personality, I found the experience fairly overwhelming as the musical performance didn’t seem to be the main focus and you couldn’t actually hear her for most of the gig over the crowd’s own singing. The show seemed to instead revolve around creating an atmosphere of solidarity for all who have experienced heartbreak, mental health issues and homophobia, fans viewing her not as a music icon but more as a role model and best friend. As I don’t have this connection with her, I felt rather out of the loop and couldn’t appreciate the performance to the same degree.
“The lighting in general was very effective, with patterned spotlights, backlighting and strings of lightbulbs which lit up in time with the drumbeats”
Nevertheless, dodie showed off her talent by constantly switching between the piano, guitar and ukulele and one memorable moment was when she performed ‘She’, the lights becoming rainbow-coloured and rainbow flags appearing throughout the crowd. The lighting in general was very effective, with patterned spotlights, backlighting and strings of lightbulbs which lit up in time with the drumbeats during ‘Sick of Losing Soulmates’.
After quite a few slower and more emotional songs, dodie picked up the pace in the final few such as ‘Absolutely Smitten’ and ‘Would You Be So Kind?’. This was where you could really tell that the band were having fun, dodie herself joining in enthusiastically with the beating of drums. I felt as though she ended on a musical high that didn’t fully reflect the rest of the gig.
Overall, I can see why dodie appeals to so many people, but I believe that if you aren’t a cult-follower of her as a personality and, like me, are more interested in her music then you may not find her gigs as fulfilling and enjoyable as desired. Kawala showcased a musical flair and created a solid stage presence that dodie seemed to lack, but the much-loved YouTuber certainly managed to inspire and please her hardcore fanbase last night and will continue to do so when she kickstarts her North American Tour in September.
Featured Images courtesy of Naomi James