Babybird - Manchester Academy 3 - 17.11.06
It's eight years since Babybird last played Manchester. Where as 1998 had the band playing the prestigious Royal Northern College Of Music, tonight it's the smaller, not as quite luxurious Academy 3. Babybird's latest album "Between My Ears There's Nothing But Music" has sold poorly as have many dates on the tour, with quite a few being cancelled along the way and with only having a few a days rehearsal the band encounter a few mishaps so this is not a slick or smooth performance by any means.
Opening with "The F Word" Stephen Jones reads most of his lyrics off his music sheet holder, saying it's due to dyslexia but is he being serious? You can never tell with the Babybird frontman. He's a renowned wind up merchant. There's more of a band effort during "Bad Old Man" with the musicians really clicking together. Jones' vocals soar with majestic grace as he sings about shooting a pedophile in a wet dream, a dark subject matter given a sweet melodic musical arrangement.
New songs "Better Than Love" and "Nails" are as sharply observed and typically obscure as anything Babybird have recorded in their glittering back catalogue with a deviously simply nursery rhyme type backing with a heart of darkness. Typically for a Babybird gig comments from the crowd, heckles and questions are given short shrift from the no nonsense frontman. He describes the Manchester accent as sounding a bit gay, asks someone to bring him a double brandy and waits until it arrives. Meanwhile he banters with a man of restricted growth about not playing older material. The occasional song has to be re-started to get the key right which can be frustrating but it isn't a constant occurrence.
The only original band member of Babybird on stage tonight bar Stephen Jones is guitarist Luke Scott, still quiet, restrained but very talented. He doesn't take any of Stephen's limelight. In the audience tonight is Stephens daughter who dotes adoringly at her father. The new material is well received especially "Too Much", one of the more instantly memorable tracks on the album. A half hearted attempt at their massive hit "You're Gorgeous" played for contractual reasons only is a wasted opportunity to relive past glories.
As Babybird leave the stage after the encore he announces that this is the last Babybird gig in Manchester ever. If that's the case then it'll be a shame because although tonight's gig has had its ups and downs it's still a pleasure to spend an evening with Stephen Jones and friends.
Nicholas Paul Godkin
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