Sweet Baboo and Co. provide somewhat of a Welsh homecoming as they round off a long and successful string of live performances celebrating the release of fifth studio album, ‘The Boombox Ballads’. Stephen Black (as the front-man is also known) thanks everyone for turning up and showing their support. The night had been generously coordinated by Shape Records and a great deal of warmth and community spirit towards the acts playing, including those talking more of a backseat role in the organising, could be felt among the crowd.
First support comes from Cardiff-based Spencer Segelov; a delightful character whose curious and quirky anecdotes inspire plenty of his piano ballads. Next up is Rozi Plain and her performance comprising of gentle vocals and a synth-y ambience leaves a positive impression to those new to her music. Both provide as much entertainment and engagement as any support act could hope for.
After milling around the crowd for most of the night, the time comes for Sweet Baboo to hop onto the stage. There is something about Stephen Black’s stage presence which makes you smile, albeit a little bit awkwardly. But that seems to have become a beloved aspect of Black’s persona and sets the tone for much of the performance. Whether it’s endearing or (dare I say it) cute, one thing is certain and that is the conviction behind the delivery of his songs, which is no more expertly demonstrated in tracks such as ‘Tonight You Are A Tiger’ and ‘I Just Want To Be Good’.
A defining moment arrives when the band proceeds to play a 10-and-a-half minute, “prog-rock epic”, rendition of ‘You Got Me Timekeeping’ off the new record. Not before Black sheepishly asks for the audiences’ approval, however. And rather expectedly, the prospect adheres much to their enthusiasm. As arguably the highlight of the set, the heavy presence of talented musicians (including Charles Watson from Slow Club) and the addition of a string quartet is perhaps the reason why. Each person on the stage adds something special to the prolonged instrumental as the song builds up to its crescendo, whilst Black directs a confused and contemplating-like stare into the crowd in between smashing it on the saxophone. The result is a sure comparison to Blacks solo performances. Yet it was pleasantly surprising to see the confidence and togetherness that this arrangement emitted.
The set is then taken a notch down with the more delicate folk number, ‘Walking in the Rain’. However, it’s only at this point that the gig is dampened slightly by a handful of obnoxious people at the bar competing over the sound of the band. It’s an annoyance that happens at the best of venues and at the best of gigs but the intimate setting of The Globe amplifies it to the point where you feel as though it’s all around you.
And whilst the majority of the set list is dedicated to tracks from the new album, Sweet Baboo indulge the audience one last time by finishing with old favourites, ‘Let’s Go Swimming Wild’ and ‘Twelve Carrots of Love’. An evening with Sweet Baboo offers you an idiosyncratic mix of everything from quaint love songs to prog-rock epics, in this rather joyful and collaborative effort of Welsh and English musicians and friends alike.