Gig Review: Davoli at Running Horse

Words: Karl Blakesley
Saturday 20 April 2024
reading time: min, words

From earning new fans at Beat The Streets festival to releasing their debut album Notes For A New Year, 2024 has been a memorable year so far for Notts outfit Davoli. So to see for ourselves how they are gathering such a fan-following in the city for their impressive live performances, we went to catch their set at The Running Horse pub…

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Despite living on Canning Circus and seeing The Running Horse pub pretty much every day, I must admit I thought it had closed down as it just never seemed to be open. So, when I find out about this show and the fact The Running Horse regularly host live bands every weekend, I was quite shocked. Walking in for the first time, I couldn’t quite believe this place had been on my doorstep this entire time and I didn’t know about it. With an instantly cozy feel, a sizeable live music space and charming décor a bit like an old Saloon bar (complete with a fake stuffed Buffalo’s head on the wall!), it’s a real hidden gem amongst the abundance of great pubs around Canning Circus.

To kick off the evening, Davoli bassist Jack Cunnington firstly takes to the stage to share some of his spoken word poetry. Topics include some war poems inspired by Alan Ginsburg, Marvin Gaye and Lars Von Trier, one imagining The Travelling Wilbury’s Instagram page and one about the small town of Malvern. A piece titled The Lonesome Cowboy particularly stands out in the Western-style setting of The Running Horse, before he closes on the title piece from his poetry book, Porcupine. With his prose heartfelt, bravely honest and filled with a touch of wry humour, it’s a great start to the evening.

Pretty much as soon as Jack leaves, Prima Star Power then take to the stage, all looking sharply dressed in smart attire and suit jackets. They have a vintage sound to match too, reminding me of The Lemon Twigs or Tranquility-era Arctic Monkeys. “Cheers to Jacob for having us, what a beautiful little pub” says one of the band, as they launch into some smooth riffs. They don’t introduce the songs but there’s some impressive moments, with one tune sounding like the soundtrack to an old Spaghetti Western, complete with deep bellowing cries and some Southern Rock / Americana style guitar passages. They also showcase their musical diversity with a love song at one point, with one of the guitarists sitting down at the keyboard and another band member picking up a violin. It’s a stirring moment in the set and before you know it, they close out on two songs lifted from a forthcoming new project. Based on tonight, will definitely be keeping an eye out for that.

After a short break it’s then finally time for Davoli, but there’s initially a false start. As they begin the first song, main man Jacob’s microphone is noticeably crackling, causing him to stop and sort it out. He fixes it in a couple of seconds and that marks the only hitch for the whole set, with the five members of the band sounding really tight together as a live unit. There’s one particularly impressive guitarist (who is looking a bit like a cross between Doctor Who and David Bowie by wearing a stylish chic scarf) that makes the mesmerising riffing seem truly effortless.

The sounds on display also match the aesthetics of the pub perfectly, with the timeless nature and bluesy riffs of Smoke Signals standing out early doors. After a couple of slower ones following that, the pace is then picked back up with more strutting guitars from the three on stage (two electric, one acoustic) and some hypnotic distortion manipulation. As you can imagine most of the set pulls from the band’s debut, Notes For A New Year, and as they arrive at the project’s lead single Sleep Deprived, there’s an audible cheer from the audience. The person next to me informs me of the song’s title, telling me that he was won over by their epic Beat The Streets set earlier this year – from tonight’s performance, it’s easy to see why he was keen to catch them again.

“Everyone give Sam a cheer for his birthday!” says Jacob, gesturing towards drummer Sam who gets a warm reception from all his friends and family in the audience. Sunny Day is the track that follows, with the album’s catchy title track Notes For A New Year the next one to be rolled out. To end the set, a member of Prima Star Power then joins them on stage with a tambourine in hand, gifting the audience a good old-fashioned hoedown as a parting gift. Despite loud calls for one more song, sadly the band have already run through all their material so politely call it a night there.

Tonight was a great example of what makes the Notts music scene so special - seeing two bands I didn’t know, in a venue I hadn’t visited before either. Thanks to the impressive performances and welcoming atmosphere, it left me keen to hear more of both bands and also return to The Running Horse again for more evenings like this one.

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