Another bitterly cold night outside and not much warmer inside, tonight’s opening act Hafdis Huld complained about the low temperatures the moment she walked onto the stage and she’s from Iceland! It is fair to say though that the crowd, who mostly turned up after Hafdis had finished, would have braved much worse conditions to catch Stephen Jones return to where it all started for him and Babybird, in his adopted city of Sheffield.
Back to Ms Huld, looking quite demure adorned in a pastel summer dress and pink cardigan, she played the part well with some zany banter and a self-deprecating style. But when she sang it became obvious why she was a big name in Iceland and has been picked to support Babybird on tour.
She was with the band GusGus as a 15 year old before going solo in 1996. Her debut album Dirty Paper Cup helped get her festival appearances at Glasto, Big Chill etc and support slots with Paolo Nutini. Now it was the turn of Babybird’s audience got to hear her delightfully quirky folk / pop songs.
Accompanied by just Alisdair on acoustic guitar rather than her usual 3-piece band, she opens with ‘Ski-Jumper’ about a man dressed for the part but scared to jump. She goes on to deliver a very good set of songs each with an explanation of the inspiration, like ‘Plastic Halo’, about a guy who left her feeling bitter and the lovely ‘Homemade Lemonade’ about leaving her hometown. The crowd grows as she performs and she gets a well-deserved cheer when the set ends.
It’s all about Stephen Jones’ Babybird and their return to touring tonight though and a packed Steel Stage welcomes the lad himself with and the 4 piece band he’s brought with him. Its well-known Stephen has a harsh way with banter towards his audience though tonight most is light-hearted, though he does mention the Primark crew at the front and chastises some texting on phones “I bet they are saying I’m at the Babybird gig. Why not just watch the gig?”. But he’s in good humour and in a no lose situation tonight with a knowledgeable crowd cheering the excellent back catalogue and new songs alike.
They open with three new tracks from the forthcoming album ‘Ex-Maniac’ due out in Feb 10. The pick is ‘Failed Suicide Club’ but there are many more crackers to come, including the free download ‘Like Them’ which he jokes is free because no-one would buy it. Everyone is obviously waiting for the classic ‘You’re Gorgeous’ and he makes us wait til the encore, singing it in a much more laid back way than the original recording, but it’s wonderful never the less.
Its been well documented he has collaborated with Johnny Depp on his new album and when Mr Jones spots the venue listings on the wall and the band Gay For Johnny Depp are advertised for a visit later this month he can’t resist saying “ which I am”. Stephen is on great form tonight, singing his excellent lyrics with such emotion it gives me goose bumps, saving the best for last with ‘Goodnight’ closing the show.
A memorable evening, and after such a long gap since the previous tours here’s hoping we don’t have to wait as long for next time.