Attracting a new breed of Babybird fans is something Stephen Jones has been striving for of late. The new tour is underway, but is there a new flock of interest, or has Babybird had its day?
You have to admire the persistence of a man who can’t bare the thought of being in his own band. Scaling the country, night after night, trying to find a new, reassured fan base of die-hard young blood. So you may ask yourself: Why does Babybird singer Stephen Jones put himself through the hassle of doing so? It’s quite simple really, he loves it. Take away the cold, comic-like personally he portrays on stage, that’s just an act. Jones is still delivering a set that would please anyone willing to give their new material a listen. With some old records incorporated too, of course.
It’s Friday night at Band on the Wall in Manchester. The hot topic for the 30-year-old plus crowd is their burning desire to rekindle the memories of the mid-90′s. Babybird were flying high, and ‘You’re Gorgeous’ was being drawn on pencil cases by teenage love-birds up and down the country. It was the high school soundtrack. So it’s guaranteed to be on the set-list tonight, right? Well, sorry, but no.
Yes, I know. A sigh of disappointment if you please. It’s the song that defines Babybird. But it’s really not all that bad. In fact, I’m going to applaud the decision to leave the “song that can make, and fuck your career up at the same time” off the list. It’s clear that Jones is looking for a new path musically. Not wanting to be bogged down with the chanting of ‘play you’re gorgeous’, at every turn of his lyrics sheets.
Before the sighs, though, lets reverse to the beginning. A modest stage entrance by Jones and the band breaks the way for ‘Black Flowers’ to kick things off. A commanding silence calms the crowd after the claps and cheers diminish. Reminiscence is screened on the faces of the compact crowd, as the twangy tones of ‘The Life’ begins to rupture. As it does so, it becomes clear that a bond is still protuberant between Jones and the people. Something, that would suggest confusion to the small huddle of youth waiting for the post indie disco. As Jones offers another of his jokes to a heckling crowd, ‘Can’t Love You Anymore’ resonates. It’s not the first track to be played from 2011′s The Pleasures of Self Destruction LP tonight, as we’re delivered a select few gems that unearth Babybird‘s calling desire. Maybe a few that have fallen by the way-side, but deserve recognition nonetheless. ‘I Love Her’ has the power to stupefy and ‘Unlovable’, courtesy of 2010′s Ex-Maniac is a remarkable hidden modern classic.
As the crowd continue to offer their opinions, Jones returns the gesture with ‘Cornershop’ and the Pulp-like ‘Goodnight’ . At times you get a reel feel for these pop mavericks. I occasionally found myself slipping into a connection with the band. But sometimes you do question why Jones intertwines a vast array of jokes into the set. It almost shadows the music and becomes the talking point of the gig, leaving the music quivering afar. ‘Back Together’ backs my claims of this up. It’s one of the bands finer tracks and it was almost scrapped from the set after attempts to play the song almost miscarry. But thankfully, all was well, eventually.
After the obligatory encore, consisting of ‘Send Me Back You Dreams’ and ‘You’ll Be Mine’ the show was wrapped up. Jones takes his last opportunity to plug the bands new album and the crowd disperse, with quite reasonable mixed opinions. But in all honesty, they were served up a show that delivered class and commitment. And although Babybird will never revive times of the past, you have to applaud their doggedness.
Words by Ashley Spink