Live Review: Babeheaven at Gullivers in Manchester 19 May 2017

Review from Jack Brownbill

Babeheaven were brought to my attention after a recommendation by Indie music mag DIY in 2016. After keeping a close eye on them, and missing them during the Neighbourhood Festival in Manchester, I have been very keen to see them perform live. As soon as they announced their first UK headline tour, how could I not get myself out to hear the delights the band had to offer? So I did just that.

The band comprises mainly of lead woman Nancy Andersen and lead guitarist Jamie Travis, but tonight’s line up is five strong. Meeting whilst working on the same street in Ladbroke Grove in West London, they soon bonded over a mutual love of trip-hop, soul and electronics. Last year, after coming across Babeheaven, I immediately knew I had stumbled on a little gem of a band. After purchasing debut single ‘Moving On’ on vinyl (a bargain at £5 may I add), I listened to what I regarded as a throwback to the early 90’s. Think Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy’, combined with a touch of Portishead’sRoads’.

Gullivers bar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter is the setting for tonight’s show. On a Friday night as well, I thought this was perfect date material for a gig (I did actually take the Mrs!) With the soft tones that Babeheaven bring with a little edge, how could this not be one of those gigs where a stiff drink in one hand, with soothing sounds on top, culminates in a near perfect mood setter?

As I had heard very little up until about a week before the gig, I wondered what variety that they would have to offer. We were treated to a new single being released a few weeks before the gig in the shape of ‘Your Love’. Again, another solid song and I had now accustomed myself that this is where Babeheaven’s direction was going – beats with delicate guitars, accompanied with emotive vocals.

As the night arrived, there were concerns with the size of the crowd. It’s a funny one this scenario with me. I sometimes think to myself that crowd capacity can play a part in the whole setup. Does the band get affected if the crowd is too small? Do they consider “Are we doing something wrong?” On the other hand, you could simply just say it’s everyone else’s loss. I tend to go with the latter.

The one big question I found myself asking was ‘will there be enough on offer to mix it up?’ This is even acknowledged by lead singer Nancy, saying in a previous gig on the tour that she was asked the question “Do all your songs just consist of you going ‘ooooohhhhh’ and ‘arrrrrrrrr’?” Controversial (and rude) as it might seem, on the first three songs they are not wrong. But for me, that’s nitpicking. These songs are very well written and sometimes, a simple croon can complement the song with enough emotion, that nothing else more is required.

I had also thought that the back catalogue would be a little on the short side, due to being a new band and all that. I had resigned to it being literally a half hour gig with about five songs. How wrong I was. The set was strong. At least nine songs strong.  But the big thing of the night that stands out is Nancy’s vocals. Carried with an effortless charm, it’s clear that anyone else’s singing of these songs wouldn’t have the same effect. Some of the bigger notes are hit without as much as a flinch. Raw talent is on show here, but a humble natured approach is what gives Babeheaven its appeal.

I think with a little more exposure (maybe catching a break supporting a fully established big time artist), Babeheaven could really go places. This could easily play amongst a Jo Whiley Radio 2 show, as well as being championed by 6 Music at the same time. They have enough about them to make a real good go of it. The song writing is solid. The vocals from Nancy are effortless. The whole ‘right place, right time’ screams to mind with this band. If so, they could be destined for great things. Otherwise, seek them out yourself, crack a bottle open, relax, and let Babeheaven take you away.

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