Babybird - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, UK - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Babybird - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, UK

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:

As Stephen ‘Babybird’ Jones will point out later this evening with a weary smile, it’s been “24 years since that wonderful single”. Since then Jones has recorded an absolutely staggering amount of music, releasing “120 albums in 8 years” through his ever-growing Bandcamp page. An incredibly talented and prolific artist, Jones has somehow remained one of the country’s best-kept songwriting secrets.

I managed to miss them last year so I’m particularly excited to see Jones and his band roll into the iconic Brudenell Social Club. It’s the kind of gig you feel like inviting everyone to, if only to show them what they’ve been missing out on. With so many songs to choose from it’ll be interesting to see what the band cherry-pick for tonight’s show.

Stepping up to the microphone Jones reminds us what a fantastic frontman and vocalist he is as the heart-wrenching ‘Black Flowers’ blooms into life. Stripped of any extra-instrumentation, the songs are played with bass, drums and guitar. Raw and unadorned yet no less beautiful. The swaggering menace of ‘All Men Are Evil’ imbued with a blistering, punk-like energy.

Jones remains witty and engaging throughout, introducing ‘Cornershop’ with an anecdote about standing behind “the fascist Morrissey” as he buys “£600 worth of bird feed”. The song itself an energised and inspired ode to the humble corner-shop. The themes feel particularly pertinent with the worrying rise of right-wing rhetoric.

Sipping from a bottle of water (that later turns out to be particularly pale white wine) Jones tells us, “for my heart I have to drink my own piss, I apologise…” Never one to shy away from a little dark humour, Jones actually had a heart attack a year or so ago. Not that it’s slowed him down.

The piss water revelations lead into a mesmerising ‘Drug Time’. There's a bruised and beautiful melancholy that shines through much of Jones’ work. ‘Dead Bird Sings’ another case in point. I’ve always been a sucker for a sad song.

‘In Place of Love’ introduces me to yet another hidden gem; a tender, thoughtful and genuinely gorgeous ballad from Happy Stupid Nothing. ‘The F-Word’ is fun, filthy and suitably foul-mouthed while the anthemic ‘Unlovable’ clearly should have sold millions.

Just when I think they’re not going to play it, the brilliantly twisted ‘Bad Old Man’ lurches into view. It’s hard to believe that the band released this as a single back in ’98, it might not have been Top of the Pops material but it’s an incredible song nonetheless. Hearts race as the soaring ‘Back Together’ brings the set to a close but we’re not quite done yet.

Back on stage for the first of two encores the band break into a seething and seedy ‘The Life’, another superb cut from the criminally underrated There’s Something Going On. Then he asks us if we can guess what’s coming next? And, more importantly, if we really want it? Yes, the band embrace the albatross and play ‘You’re Gorgeous’.

It’s been an entertaining, impressive and frequently powerful performance but the cherry is still to be placed on top of the cake. The bittersweet euphoria of ‘Goodnight’ and the frankly lovely ‘The Way You Are’ lift everyone’s spirits but we’re heading for something much darker. ‘Take Me Back’ is as disturbing as it is astonishing, Jones describing a horrendous murder as the whole thing builds to a dramatic, spine-tingling conclusion.

If you’re unfamiliar with the dark delights of Babybird then consider this your invitation. You’ve got a lot to catch up on.

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