Review: Danielle Nicole Band w/ The Alleycats

The Danielle Nicole Band, a Kansas City-based blues trio, rocked the blues at The State Room on Wednesday, September 6, 2023. With no visible setlist, Danielle Nicole, her husband/guitarist Brandon Miller, and drummer Go-Go Ray, performed a tight 12-song show that included amazing guitar and drum solos. Chicago blues legend Koko Taylor once described Danielle Nicole as: “that girl gets down to the nitty gritty.”  Indeed, the music just seemed to flow out of her soul. 

From the opening number, “Love On My Brain,” Nicole sang with a fiery passion, as if she were channeling the spirit of Janis Joplin or Etta James. She frequently paused to make eye contact with the crowd, inviting us in for a shared heavy blues experience. On “Burnin’ For You,” and “Wolf Den,” Nicole rocked the bass like no other, switching out from her rack of 5 left-handed instruments that sat next to her. There aren’t many bassist-fronted bands (and even fewer who are left-handed bass playing women). She and her band commanded the room from the first note. Nicole is the 2023 Blues Music Award (BMA) winner in the category of Instrumentalist–Bass. It’s her 5th BMA. 

Besides seeing amazing artists in an intimate setting, the night’s highlights included their run of mesmerizing songs starting with the soulful “Cry No More,” followed by the heavy basslines on “Pusher Man” and “I’m Going Home.” Nicole and Miller retreated off stage, and Go-Go Ray continued with one of the best damn drum solos I’ve ever seen. He was pure magic. He hit the symbols, stopped them on a dime, and twirled his sticks like a magician. The solo didn’t drive with the frantic intensity of rock, instead, it flowed with an intrinsic wave of emotion–a hallmark of the blues. Until Wednesday, the honor of best drum solo I ever witnessed went to Jerry Mercer of April Wine, for his solo on “21st Century Schizoid Man” in 1981. But I experienced that performance in an arena, a million miles away from the stage. So, can I really claim I “saw” it? But, I can bear witness for this show. I was only a few feet away from Ray, so I didn’t miss a beat (pun intended). Nicole and Miller returned to the stage for a final reprise of  “I’m Going Home,” before Miller got a chance to feature a breath-taking classical guitar-styled solo piece steeped with smooth blues tones (he also rocked the house all evening). 

Nicole finished the set by dazzling us with her soulful vocal chops on a fine rendition of her amazing blues-rocker “Save Me.” Instead of exiting before the encore, the trio stayed on stage, Nicole thanked the crowd for showing up and the Utah Blues Society for sponsoring the event. Describing her blues journey, she told the crowd,  “You don’t choose the blues. The blues chooses you.”

For her encore she belted out a spine-tingling version of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” not considered a traditional blues song. Nevertheless, she infused it with bluesy, soul-shaking melancholy. I’m sure Prince would have approved of her bluesy take on his enduring hit. 

The local 5-piece blues band The Alleycats opened the evening. The Salt Lake City band, formerly known as Olive and The Alleycats, started us off with their rendition of Mike Zito’s “Wasted Time.” For this performance they featured the vocalist Adri, who previously worked with the band. Her powerful torch-singer voice lent itself well to the eclectic mix of songs they played. They mixed in a few well-known covers alongside more obscure, but no less wonderful deep-cuts. They totally owned “Dear Daddy,” a great song by the under-the-radar Swedish blues band Ida Bang & The Blue Tears. Adri’s vocals on Elvin Bishop’s ‘70s hit “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” brought new life into a great old song. This is a highly skilled and polished troup. Their eight-song set showcased their talent. I’m going to look for them at venues around the valley. I want to see what other rare gems they have to share.

I want to give a special shout-out to the Utah Blues Society and KRCL DJ Brian Kelm, host of the Red, White, and Blues program, for their work in bringing award-winning blues artists to our stages, and to The Stateroom Presents for giving us the best venues to experience these world-class performers. Walking home after the show, I felt so privileged for the opportunity to see such immense talent in an intimate space. 

If you want another opportunity to see a woman who rocks the blues, then don’t miss Samantha Fish at The Commonwealth Room on September 28, 2023. It’s going to be epic!

Who: Danielle Nicole Band w/ The Alleycats

Where: The State Room

When: Wednesday, September 6, 2023


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John Nelson
John Nelson
John Nelson covers the local music scene for Salt Lake magazine. He is a 20-year veteran of Uncle Sam’s Flying Circus with a lifelong addiction to American roots music, live music venues, craft beer and baseball.

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