My Baby is formed of Dutch siblings Sheik (drums) and Cato van Dyck (vocals) and New Zealand guitarist Daniel Johnston. They are currently touring in support of their latest LP ‘Prehistoric Rhythm’, which is their third full length offering. Tonight they play Manchester’s Deaf Institute, a tiny venue with a shed load of quirky charm.
First up in support is John Fairhurst, hailed as ‘Wigan’s answer to Jimi Hendrix’. He describes how his music is influenced by travelling the world and the people he’s met along the way. His lighting-fast guitar playing, mixed with his gravelly vocals is mesmerising. He expertly blends blues rhythms with eastern-inspired finger picking, the mix of styles making his set a real joy to watch. The crowd that has gathered tonight is a real mix too, from beard-stroking hippies to people who are just here to simply dance without pretension.
On record, My Baby are a psychedelic blues-rock collective, with some decidedly cheesy song titles. Aspersions cast aside however, and their live show is a non-stop party. From start to finish the band hardly speaks a word, each song flows into the next in a frenetic trance-like rhythm. The band claim to be influenced by spiritualism and voodoo rituals, and its easy to draw a comparison between that and their performance. Johnston introduces the set, saying “My Baby is happy to be back in Manchester”, and it seems the cult following they appear to have in Manchester is more than happy to receive them.
From then the tempo picks up pace and never really stops. ‘Electrified’ is driven by a dark, sultry bassline, as Van Dyck’s soulful wailing vocals lead into rhythmic drum rolls, intertwined with Bluegrass guitar picking that almost mimics a sitar. Stand out track ‘Love Dance’ showcases tribal drums and an upbeat violin melody, then descends into a funky groove which is almost like disco in its pace.
‘Cosmic Radio’ follows in the same vein, blending squawking vocals over a bluesy groove and a hip hop beat. It seems is what My Baby loves to do best is mix genre after genre, all the while maintaining a distinctive thread running through the whole set. ‘Ancient Tribe’ verges on the edge of bad 1990s trance, but the band are so likeable that by this point in the night no one cares whether the music is cool or not.
Although their live show is clearly well-orchestrated, their set never feels over-rehearsed, and somehow manages to maintain the organic, building energy of the tribal gatherings they reference so often in their music. ‘Moon Shower’ channels chanting vocals over a blues-meets-Far East rhythm, then ‘Make a Hundred’ revs up the tempo again.
By the end of the set, the crowd at the front of the stage has turned into a full-on rave, with one spectator pausing only to remove his shirt (but leave his paisley waistcoat intact). After a brief pause, the band return for a short encore, the small group of hard core fans whipping itself into a frenzy. It’s impossible for even the most stoic music fan not to get dragged into the rhythm. My Baby is a formidable live force, and would be a must-watch on any festival list for this year – leave your preconceptions at the door and bring your dancing shoes.