to sit alone and watch the world go by...
Tina Dico @ The Maze, Nottingham - 4th March 2008
The record industry may be on its last legs, but it appears that there are some things that they still get right: if you ever find yourself with a popular Danish singer-songwriter on your hands and you are trying to think of a way to make her internationally successful, it seems that you could do an awful lot worse than set her up in a flat in Brick Lane with no friends and no furniture. Then all you have to do is sit back and wait for the delivery of a set of wonderful songs. True, they’ll probably all be songs about alienation, disconnection and isolation, but aren’t all the best songs?
That’s more or less exactly what happened to Tina Dico. She was big in Denmark and had won several Danish music awards, but international success only came after she left the comfortable environment of the smaller pond and came over to London to seek wider recognition. It can’t have been easy, but it seems to be a policy that is slowly bearing fruit: “In The Red” is a lovely album that seems to get better with each listen, the new album is now out and Dico is now playing gigs as far afield as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle... as well as the rather more local to Denmark Bremen, Hamburg, Cologne and so on. She's obviously not been as immediately succesful as the Adeles and Duffys of this world, but without anywhere near as much record company support and without having attended the Brit school, she seems to be doing okay for herself, thanks very much.
The first of her songs that I heard was "Losing", courtesy of the “Songs to Learn and to Sing” feature on Sweeping the Nation, when it was chosen by Dead Kenny. It’s a great song – my favourite of hers, actually – and when I saw that she was playing at the Social a few months later, I didn’t take too much persuading that it would be £8 well spent. It was too, and even the amusingly heartfelt cover of the Quo’s “In The Army Now” didn’t detract too much from the fact that it was a really fantastic, intimate show.
I'd not been there prior to this evening's show, but if anything, The Maze is an even more intimate venue than the Social. It's round the back of the Forest Tavern on the Mansfield Road - a proper pub - and although it's probably not a great deal smaller than the Social, the presence of tables and chairs really gives it less of the feel of a small music venue, and more of the feel of a small jazz club or a cosy comedy club. Support tonight is by a mumbling Irish chap called Ain. He's apparently 23, but he looks about 12 and sports a splendid beginner's attempt at a moustache. I'm sure his music is a really great soundtrack for a quiet evening in with a bottle of red wine, but tonight it's hard to tell and I'm pretty sure it's the only time that I've been to a gig where I was actively wondering if I should be putting my mobile phone onto silent. He was quiet... very quiet. Not bad by any means, but so quiet that it was hard to work out if he was any good, and I think the rest of the audience agreed with me. Polite rather than enthusiastic applause was very much the order of the day. He's the kind of person that amplification was invented for. Tina Dico, on the other hand, is greeted rapturously as she sweeps through the stage door / door to the toilets and makes her way onto the small platform that passes as a stage here. Tonight she plays a selection of songs from the new album mixed in with some old favourites from "In The Red" and several from some of her EPs. Unlike the last time I saw her, as well as her trust acoustic, she actually now makes use of an electric guitar to accompany the odd song. It did seem to be a bit problematic to tune, but she told us that she'd bought it in Italy (ah, that explains that then!) and that it was its first time on tour, so we should be forgiving. We were a very understanding and supportive crowd (one chap was so supportive that he seemed to film the whole gig on his camera, marking each song as an individual file. Either he's going to stick them up on YouTube or he's storing them for his own personal use... who knows, perhaps both - although quite why you'd want to watch a live show through the tiny screen on the back of your camera, I'm not too sure...)
It was another good set. She has good songs and a good voice, although one of the problems with being a female singer-songwriter is that you are destined to be forever working in the shadow of Joni Mitchell. In lots of ways, Tino Dico is absolutely nothing like our Joni, but just by the simple fact that she stands before us on a stage with only an acoustic guitar and her very personal songs makes the comparison unavoidable. There is also no getting away from the fact that occasionally the lyrics sound exactly what they are: written by someone for whom English is not her first language. I don't mean that as a criticism - hell, a lot of music written by English people sounds like that too - but quite a few of her songs have slightly oddly worded lines. The effect is actually rather charming.
I haven't yet listened to the new album, so of the music she plays, I only really recognise the tracks off "In The Red" - Warm Sand, In The Red, Beautiful View, My Mirror and Headshop (which, for reasons best known to my brain, always reminds me of Worzel Gummidge changing heads). She doesn't play "Losing", but it hardly seems to matter as the new stuff all sounds good, especially Sacre Coeur.
So then, a good night in convivial surroundings and home not long after 10pm. Not very rock and roll, perhaps, but a quiet gig once in a while is probably good for the soul. As an aside, and although it has absolutely nothing to do with her music, those scandinavians seem to have a remarkably rich gene pool, don't they? So many of them, of both sexes, seem to be tall, slim, blonde and with cheekbones to die for. Tina Dico has all of that and real talent too. And she seems very nice.
Verdict: 7.5 / 10