Exquisite Noise Festival at the Prince Albert: 13 October

This review can also be viewed here.

Dan Shears has the voice of an angel but he didn’t need wings or anything to hide behind on Thursday as he captivated the crowd on the merit of his stunning voice and thoughtful guitar-playing alone. Starting the Exquisite Noise proceedings, the artist (whose voice is of the essence of Matt Bellamy) hopped, skipped and jumped between notes, in his incredible vocal range.

Between folk/indie songs with heartfelt lyrics, he amused with his wit and during songs his performance was truly spine-tingling. Check out ‘Lily’ which was his final song. To find Dan, in his own words, it’s: “Shears as in the sheep trimming device.”

Next, something a little noisier, as young and energetic 3-piece Little Signals brought their supple indie pop with a kick to the Prince Albert. The lead singer stayed on the right side of shouty with some nice vocal with attitude which combined with bopworthy reverberated sound and punchy drumming. This band can only grow with more gig experience.

We Spies gave an exciting set that crafted together a tapestry of experimental threads fronted by Lucy Elliott and her distinctive 60s-esque voice (think Ronettes.) The 4-piece built a thick layer of sound with three guitars with every song taking you on a journey of instrumental. There was elements of funk right through to rock and an impressive evocation of different moods. This band created juxtaposition between an experimental feel and then also being so carefully crafted in performance. It was evident that this is a band of ideas and they have worked hard on them to create a unique brand of their own. Their songs often finished unpredictably and this evoked a sense of a confident and strong sense of identity which was very invigorating.

Sparrow translated songs from their at times chilled-out, hit album ‘Playtime’ into a versatile and charismatic interpretation for live performance. The 2 boys and 2 girls got things underway with ‘All the things you were hoping for’ with the cracking bass player jiving to the melodies throughout the set. The combination of the lead male and female vocal was as striking live as it is on their impressive debut album. They sailed through their set with confidence and it is evident why they have made it onto the radar. An echoey rendition of the superb ‘Secret’ rounded off the evening of exceptional new talent.

Slow Club w/Sweet Baboo & The New Union at Audio: 29 September

Sweet Baboo

Brighton band The New Union were the first support act for the Slow Club gig at Audio on Thursday night.  This young 4-piece had a fresh indie sound that ranged from the more chilled out ‘It’s You’ with two Korgs to some slamming riffs in ‘In My World.’  Their raw talent was evident and their cracking instrumental showed true potential for the future.

Next up was Welshman Sweet Baboo, a quieter solo acoustic act coming to the end of his first ever tour.  The slightly bewildered-looking, bare-footed musician demonstrated dry, straight-faced humour, giving a story for each of his heavily lyrical songs and making the crowd laugh.  He said: “This is a song about my housemate and what we get up to…fuck all.”

His honest vocal and guitar-playing was reminiscent of Noah and The Whale or Fionn Regan.  There was an element of comedy to his performance as lyrics included “I am in the best band ever and I make the best love ever.”  However this did not take away from his rich vocal sound.

Sweet Baboo, aka Steve Black, joined the Slow Club duo for their breathtaking set on the last date of their tour.  Playing a mixture of songs from their first album ‘Yeah So’ and tracks from September release ’Paradise’ the pair aimed to please fans, and certainly succeeded.

Their music ranges from folk-rock sounds to more indie pop tunes and the gig proved their versatility.

Charlie and Becky stormed onto the stage to the beat of a pounding bass drum.  Rocking a tee that read ‘Rotherham is the new Berlin,’ Becky tunefully howled her way through ‘Our Most Brilliant Friends’ with the perfect blend of Charlie’s falsetto.

The pair, with their lovely northern drawl, interacted with the crowd and kept the set interesting by swapping instruments and sometimes singing solo, sometimes together.

This band is all about the vocal, as they aren’t afraid to lay their voices bare, and although they sometimes used the smashing of the drums, dreamy bass and even a banjo, the bottom line is the stunning vocal harmonies.

Becky is Rotherham’s answer to Debbie Harry, firstly as her looks are similar but also as she is a sexy front-woman with superb vocals. Their rousing rendition of ‘Come On Youth’ was similar sounding to the sound of Jeff Buckley on album ‘Grace.’  Another quieter song ‘Horses Jumping and Paradise’ started off with just Charlie, his humble voice silencing Audio.  Becky joined the song, showcasing the rousing “siren of the sea” element to her voice.

The last song of the set was the recognisable favourite ‘Two Cousins’ released earlier this year.  Again the limitless vocal, of Becky in particular, was underlined.

The band thanked everyone who had helped them on this tour and came back on for an encore including ‘Giving Up On Love’ and finally ‘Christmas TV.’

It was really moving as the whole audience joined in with ‘Just come on home’ for the chorus of the evocative song.

Another corker from Audio in a double bill of two great gigs in two nights.

Review also here: http://www.brightonnoise.co.uk/2011/10/03/live-review-slow-club-w-sweet-baboo-the-new-union/