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Dan Croll - The Art Bar, Oxford 11/09/24

13 October 2014, 09:00 | Written by Amy Rose O'Hanlon

They say that Buddy Holly was reluctant to wear his glasses on stage, fearing that they would detract from his rock and roll image. Spectacles, then, befit Dan Croll’s electro folk down to a horn-rimmed tee. There’s as much rock in the lyric "So if you ever come round to my house take your shoes off at the door/'Cause it's impolite not to; you'll be damaging my floor" as there is roll in the Liverpool artist’s "all together now" choruses. Last night, as he shook his tambourine a shade too vigorously, toppled momentarily into the crowd and blushed, "I went for it a bit too much there", Croll proved you don’t need rock, roll or twenty-twenty vision to bring the house down.

"Compliment Your Soul" kicked off an impressive fifteen song set with a jamboree of tumbling beats and chiming strings which rolled over into the swinging harpsichord and elastic drums of "Thinkin Boutchu". Croll’s band, manning acoustic guitar, bass, drums and synths, often accompany him vocally, producing crooning harmonies such as those on the bass-driven "Only Ghost".

Given that the 24-year-old musician cut his teeth at the Liverpool School Of Performing Arts, it's perhaps unsurprising that his music strays beyond melodic indie pop and into the slow groove rhythms of electronic R&B. Putting down his tambourine and picking up a shaker, Croll turned the dial to funky with the bass drum thump of "Can You Hear Me" and church organ synths of the falsetto charged "Wanna Know".

Where the Croll outfit’s vocal harmonies come into their own is on afro-funk track "Maway", all hand claps and hoopla choruses. Following the release of his debut album Sweet Disarray in March, the artist worked with South African choral group Lady Blacksmith Mambazo for Record Store Day 2014. The fruits of the collaboration, "Hello My Baby" and b-side "Ever At Your Side", are tinged with a rockabilly clutter, Croll’s acoustic guitar making merry alongside a ‘hey baby’ chorus to rival DJ Ötzi’s crowd-rallying disco classic.

As the unmistakeable harpsichord intro to debut single "From Nowhere" rolls out, the singer reminisced, "I opened with this song two years ago at Gathering Festival. That was the last time I played in Oxford." Since its release the track has seen remix after remix, as well as stacking up a host of radio playlist slots, and it wasn’t hard to see why as the growling guitar cut and heartache vocals were accompanied in unbroken chorus by the audience.

The final three songs of the set saw a winding down of momentum. The slow-building melodies and tender vocals preceded a fervently requested encore, with album title track "Sweet Disarray" closing the night. The twinkly guitar run-up induced shushings from the crowd, and Croll’s warm vocals reverberated around the dark back room as though it were a vaulted cathedral.

On the header photo of Croll’s Twitter account are scrawled the words, ‘brb, writing a second album’. This quasi-graffiti is about as rock and roll reckless as the artist is likely to get - and that’s exactly what makes Croll’s bespectacled music so elatedly charming.


Compliment Your Soul
Thinkin Aboutchu
Only Ghost
Can You Hear Me
Must Be Leaving
Wanna Know
Hello My Baby
Ever At Your Side
From Nowhere
Always Like This
Eyes Together
Sweet Disarray

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