Friday, September 23, 2011


I have moments when I am dumbstruck by the fact that Sweet Baboo is not a household name. Surely every home in Britain should own at least one if not all three of his albums? Maybe this tour or his short-listing in the Welsh Music Prize might be the next steps towards rectifying this?

Tonight's eight song solo set opening for Slow Club was dependably excellent: recent and new (all untitled as yet) songs of wit and charm about love, fear of ageing, zombie-based collages and meeting a mermaid cutie off the coast of Anglesey. Who could fail to be charmed? Well too many chattering people waiting for Slow Club for one (although most of them did talk through the headliner too). Possibly not as relaxed and free-flowing of banter as I’d seen him before – and the harsh red glare of the stage lights didn’t help - but this set was still worth the price of tonight’s admission alone.

The Sweet Baboo Set List:

I’m A Dancer
New Song (‘Being Slow’)
12 Carrots Of Love
New Song (‘The Wind In My Sails’)
Girl Under A Tree
Who Would Have Thought
New Song (‘Sea Life Is The Life For Me’)

I'm still getting to grips with "Paradise" the second album from Slow Club. On initial listens I'm not finding (what I remember as) the instantaneous charm and laid-back appeal of 'Yeah So'. There's a denseness of production and shifting styles that possibly suggest the duo of Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson have been poring over their sophomore release for too long. However of course, as usual, I just want this record to be a carbon-copy repeat of its predecessor. These early listen worries continued for the first couple of songs tonight. Despite the energy of twanging guitar and double set of drums opener ‘Where I’m Waking', it still felt a bit stiff and earnest, like kids trying to act mature and straight-faced in front of the adults to show how grown up they can be.

Luckily this soon softened: light-hearted banter between songs about You Tube hits, Jack Daniels and regional competition ("there's more of you than in Birmingham") plus a pleasing if erratic mix of fast and quiet songs largely from "Paradise" ("tough shit if you only want the old ones") felt more natural. Erratic is the wrong word but how else to convey the shift from the full-on, frenetic roar of ‘The Dog’ (one of my favourites from the new album) to the pared back simplicity of ‘Only If You’re Certain’ with just voice and guitar.

Despite excellent backing from Avvon Chambers on drums and Sweet Baboo on bass, the best moments for me were when the purity of the duo was re-established: unfussy delivery of songs, close-buddy interplay and a sense of couldn’t-care-less fun. Of course Slow Club have developed and I’m still wanting the ramshackle looseness of old – and to have Rebecca back behind her stand-up drum-kit again (good to see briefly for ‘Giving Up On Love’). However the first encore - a confident, thumping ’Two Cousins’ - showed how the band could do both slick and abandon, a lolloping anthem with emphatic, cascading rhythm section but also Rebecca stomping and swaying across the stage with mussed-up hair over her face and lost in the moment.

And to finish the third encore was 'Christmas TV' performed off-mic with the duo standing on the barrier in front of the stage. From frail, strummed beginning to final mass singalong, it confirmed what Slow Club are best at: emotional connection. A special, spine-tingling moment.

I must learn not to try and force bands to be who they used to be or freeze them in aspic (and to play the new album to death before seeing them live). I’ve listened to “Paradise” in a new light since this gig and some slight qualms about the band trying too hard still linger. I hope Slow Club continue to have the confidence to be themselves more. As the second half of tonight’s gig and the encores showed, boy does it suit them.

The Slow Club Set List:

Where I’m Waking
Our Most Brilliant Friends
Never Look Back
Horses Jumping
If We’re Still Alive
I Was Unconscious, It Was A Dream
The Dog
Only If You're Certain
Hackney Marsh
Giving Up On Love
Two Cousins
Gold Mountain
Christmas TV

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