Once again my ‘always get there for the support act’ mantra rings true although to be fair I’d heard of, and listened to, Viji quite a lot over the last few weeks. Her recorded output is great – have a listen to 2023 album ‘So Vanilla’. Being signed to Speedy Wunderground should automatically peak anyone’s interest.
Live everything seems to move up a notch and Viji hammers out a fantastic set of grungy, guitar laced, experimental pop. There’s hints of 90’s shoegaze and bands such as Lush, Jesus and Mary Chain and Sonic Youth creep into my brain as I watch. From the chilled out, stripped back ‘Sundress In Pink’ through the perfect indie pop of ‘Sedative’, the slow, rumbling drone of ‘Ambien’ and the full on thrash of ‘Sharks’ together with with a captivating stage presence – Viji delivers with the confidence, enthusiasm and energy of any well respected headliner – it’s proof, once again, that fantastic music is being produced by young artists away from the mainstream. And if ever there was a perfect example of why you should always get there to see the support Viji is it.
If I’m completely honest if it wasn’t for my two daughters it’s very likely Baby Queen would never have crossed my radar. But with ‘Nobody Really Cares’ being a regular appearance on playlists in the car, the resultant earworm, and a date in Liverpool where my daughter is a student it was time to see what what this South African born singer, Arabella Latham, aka Baby Queen can deliver live.
Liverpool Academy2 holds just 500 people meaning that once Latham became a household name after her music featured in Heartstopper – the Netflix romantic, coming of age, comedy – this was always going to be a sell out. The place is absolutely rammed and it’s not just youngsters. The age range is huge. The atmosphere before Baby Queen walks on stage is electric. There’s a real sense that something special is going to happen and that those here tonight are genuinely lucky to be witnessing this event in such a small, intimate venue.
Today is also special for Baby Queen and, no doubt, those present because her new album, ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ was released just a few hours ago.
This isn’t a song by song breakdown of the show. There’s a setlist at the end. Baby Queen writes songs about life. They’re personal. They’re about getting drunk and ruining things, They’re about mental health, depression, medication. They’re about realising that it’s OK to be attracted to both men and women. They’re about leaving home at 18 to pursue your dreams on the other side of the world. In short, everyone will be able to relate to something Baby Queen says.
I went with an open mind. I was blown away. From the first song to the last Baby Queen reigned supreme. It’s rare you see an artist captivate a crowd like she does. From the front row to the back and the seats at the side, from those not yet a teenager, through the hordes of teens, early/mid twenty somethings to those probably drawing a pension Baby Queen captivated them all. Everyone is dancing, everyone is singing, everyone is waving their arms. Regardless of whether it’s pop tinged pounding rock or a heart wrenching solo with just a keyboard to accompany her incredible voice this Liverpool crowd are with her all the way.
Baby Queen will, one day, be filling stadiums. She has that presence, the ability to completely enthrall and enchant a crowd. Even this veteran of hundreds and hundreds of gigs, who without my daughter would not be here, is absolutely won over. This is someone who won’t be disappearing after a couple of albums. Baby Queen has an incredible voice and an amazing stage presence. She puts everything into this show. She’s genuinely emotional about the response songs from the new album get, she cares about her audience – stopping when two daft blokes decide its time for a fight. “If anybodies going to fight it’s me”. Stopping again to ask everyone to step back so those at the front have a bit more room, even offering to spray them with her own water because it’s so hot.
To sum it up tonight was joyful. To witness a whole room singing and even those at the back completely lost in their own dance moves is something special.
Finally Baby Queen deserves big respect for her attitude towards her merch. On the day when your album is released and you’re presented with a huge number of adoring fans how many artists would sell the CD version for just a fiver and the picture disk vinyl for just fifteen quid? Not only that, less than five minutes after walking off stage Baby Queen is at the desk signing things and chatting away.
Photography + words: Steve White
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