REVIEW: Murkage Dave changes lives in Bristol

Murkage Dave performed at The Exchange in Bristol. Picture: Jordan Hughes

Murkage Dave performed at The Exchange in Bristol. Picture: Jordan Hughes - Credit: Archant

“Why isn’t Murkage Dave more popular?”

Murkage Dave at The Exchange in Bristol. Picture: Henry Woodsford

Murkage Dave at The Exchange in Bristol. Picture: Henry Woodsford - Credit: Archant

That was the question on everyone's lips after he performed at The Exchange in Bristol on Tuesday as part of his Keep Up The Bad Work tour.

After releasing his debut solo album, Murkage Dave Changed My Life, exactly 12 months ago, I had been looking forward to this show for quite some time.

I first heard of Dave through friends who had been to one of his legendary Murkage club nights in Manchester many years ago. I followed his next moves closely when Mike Skinner of The Streets formed the Tonga party collective and later brought Dave on tour as a warm up act.

Like many, my attention was heightened to Dave's ability as a solo artist when Car Bomb was released in 2016. It became a huge hit and arguably showcased his vocal range and versatility for the first time. His sound is incredibly unique, having drawn inspiration from UK garage, R&B, soul and even elements of rock.

Murkage Dave at The Exchange in Bristol. Picture: Henry Woodsford

Murkage Dave at The Exchange in Bristol. Picture: Henry Woodsford - Credit: Archant


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The release of Murkage Dave Changed My Life was a watershed moment and rightly earned calls for a Mercury Award nomination, which unfortunately did not come. It was easily my favourite album of 2018. It's such an important record, each hook is carefully crafted and carries weight. The song N***as Need Each Other, for example, targets toxic masculinity in an accessible and real way. It's a track I can listen to on repeat for hours and the room came alive during its rendition. His ability to discuss everyday scenarios with a powerful soulful singing voice is something to behold.

Following a nervous start, both Dave and the audience grew with confidence after the first couple of songs. His constant need for reassurance from fans was endearing, wanting to know if things were going right as he approached his set with caution.

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Dave spoke fondly of Bristol and his memories of putting on Murkage party nights back in the day, much to the delight of the lively crowd which he described as 'a family'.

From that point Dave had the audience in the palm of his hand, and with the guidance of producer and DJ Smith supplying the backing tracks, he treated us to new number, I Pay My Taxes, and navigated his way through the album, with Magic Mission Deja Rinse, You Always Ring Me When I'm Busy and White Nikes In The Rain proving huge slam dunks. The latter's reaction, considering it is only an interlude in the album, makes its impact even more remarkable.

Murkage Dave at The Exchange in Bristol. Picture: Henry Woodsford

Murkage Dave at The Exchange in Bristol. Picture: Henry Woodsford - Credit: Archant

The audience was also teased an almost-full rendition of Monsta Boy - I'm Sorry. Dave expertly cut his acapella just as the crowd wanted him to keep going. I don't think we will ever hear the full version which so many people desire. It is probably lying on the cutting floor somewhere, waiting to be released.

An encore featured Put You On My Shoulders and Keep Up The Bad Work which prompted a real sense of amazement in the room. The stage was small but there was a feeling we were witnessing someone who can very rapidly eclipse such venues. A stranger asked me on the way out why he isn't more popular and I told them: "I honestly have no idea".

Murkage Dave is still in the infancy of his solo career, but give him a listen, it may well change your life.

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