Sweet Baboo – Tuesday February 2nd – Leicester Musician

I’m pretty sure that I’d never want to be a gig promoter. It’s all a bit easy sitting behind this keypad saying that ‘I love X’ and ‘I want to be Y’ but these promoter types are the sort that really put their livelihoods on the line. 

The best promoter that we have in Leicester is Ian Magic Teapot. I’m not entirely sure how he still does it. For the ten years plus that I’ve been in this ‘top of the league’ city, Ian has worked incredibly hard to bring some of the best to our venues. 

Sometimes, he has a win. I think that all who know Ian don’t begrudge him those paydays when he sells enough tickets to break even.. Because, so often, for a reason I don’t really understand, we try our damnedest to avoid supporting live music. 

Tonight Magic Teapot put on a show by Sweet Baboo. Here’s an act that I’ve barely been able to see in some festival tents, such is the push and the popularity. Tonight, it was hard to keep a low profile at the Musician. The room was perhaps half full. If this was a gig in Nottingham, thirty miles up the road, I doubt that I would have been able to swing my cat whilst I danced yet here I could. 

Stephen Black is his usual self-deprecating self. This is the first night of the tour and he plays with us that his band might be a tad under-rehearsed. Epic and long, indulgent prog-rock endings to bouncy pop tunes are threatened but hardly materialise. Instead, this show stays on the right side of sweet. Sometimes, there are dips further back into the Sweet Baboo catalogue and sometimes we’re thrust bang up to date with notes from the recent ‘Dennis’ EP but mostly this is a setlist made up with tunes from last years fabulous Boombox Ballads record. 

Charles from Slow Club plays guitar tonight in Stephen’s band. The last time that Slow Club were in Leicester I wrote about it here. It’s fair to say that was a much busier gig. 

But, in terms of quality, both were on a par. Both were excellent nights out. I wish you were there to see this one for yourself. 

But not half as much as Ian Magic Teapot probably does. 

 

 

Slow Club – Leicester Cookie – February 24th 2015

(Support for tonight’s show came from London based three piece, Happyness. Seeing as it was them that secured me my guest-list ticket and also because they’re bloody good in their own right, I’ll be reviewing and featuring them shortly on Sonic Breakfast. This article is all about Slow Club.)

There’s a message that’s painted into an overhanging part of the ceiling down here in the excellent music venue and basement of Leicester’s Cookie. ‘Respect the artist respect the art’, it says. There’s no danger tonight that this packed-in crowd won’t obey such a command for Sheffield’s Slow Club are in town and there’s a lot of love on show.

Charles and Rebecca, the duo that are the bones behind Slow Club, appear confused by their popularity. “There’s so many people here. Who knew? Slow Club are huge in Leicester“, they say before Rebecca attempts to explain it by letting all know that her brother came to University here. Later in the set, Charles asks if anybody remembers when they played De Montfort Hall as part of the now, very much missed, Summer Sundae festival. He urges all to start a campaign to get them to play there again, so impressed was he with the building (Simon Says anybody?). Loose family ties and previous City shows might go a little way to explaining their popularity tonight but the truth is, I suspect, that most people are here because they know just how exciting a live proposition Slow Club are.

That reputation can only have been further secured after the release last year of their latest album, “Complete Surrender”. The set list tonight is mostly drawn from this album. From the Motown crispness of set opener, ‘Tears Of joy’ through to the nostalgic, shimmering Stax-like soul of ‘Suffering You, Suffering Me’ and the electro-pop of the albums title track, this is a band not afraid to mix up styles and stage dynamics to keep us enthralled. They swap instruments between songs. Charles apologises when he sits at the keyboard that nobody beyond the front row will see him for three minutes or so. Rebecca moves between guitar and drums with ease.

Some of my favourite tunes on the album are the ones where Rebecca, dressed tonight in a T-shirt that says ‘I defy your labels’, lays bare her grief about a relationship breakdown. It’s simply stunning songwriting and tonight the power of these songs are at the core of my enjoyment. Early in the set, a stripped back version of ‘Not mine to love’ brings the grief of that affair to the forefront. When Rebecca sings, you feel that she’s re-living every word and every memory from this period of her life. We wait until the encore for ‘Dependable people and things that I’m sure of’. Dramatically conveyed and full of tender bitterness, the audience are reaching for a collective tissue by the end.

I’d hate to give the impression though that this is an emotional wringer of a gig. It has those moments but they’re more than offset by the ramshackle, humble humour and laidback charm on display. Effortlessly, Slow Club connect with their crowd. It’s freezing cold outside but, down here in this basement, it’s almost unbearably sweaty and hot. The band make light of the facade behind encores by refusing to milk the audiences cheers for too long. “It’s too cold to wait outside in the alley“, they say. The Leicester punters are told by Rebecca that this has been her favourite show of the tour. “It’s much better than Stoke”, adds Charles. For their second encore, the band raise the roof by strolling into the crowd and playing an acoustic version of ‘The pieces’ in the round. Fans get out their phones to film a moment.

Tonight, we have respected a band who are at the top of their craft.