Friday July 11 2014
In a faintly surreal touch, Birdeatsbaby have arranged
framed photographs of themselves over the Macbeth's fireplace, as if
we're in a doting aunt's drawing room.
The impression of period domesticity is reinforced by Emberhoney. In her Dickensian street urchin garb, she looks like the chimney sweep's assistant who's come to collect her Christmas box.
On this occasion, at least, Emberhoney is a solo act in the form of Taylor Madison Damion (frankly, if I had a brilliant rock star name like that, I wouldn't bother calling myself anything else), who sings a selection of neatly-crafted ballads to the accompaniment of electric piano and two guitars - not all at the same time, mind.
It's amiable, engaging stuff, although it must be said the embers never quite crackle into flame. Emberhoney's songs are smoothly low-key: strolls in the park rather than scuffles in the street. The set slips by like a sunlit afternoon - a pleasant experience, but in the end Emberhoney is strolling on the wrong side of the easy listening line for me.
And now, the neo-classical folk-rock extravaganza that is Birdeatsbaby.
It's impossible to fit Birdeatsbaby into a neat little genre-box. You find yourself conjuring weird hybrid descriptions out of the air, hyphens scattered all over the place.
Let's add prog-punk carnival-cabaret while
we're at it, and we still haven't really got a handle on the Birdseatbaby
Here they come, in a precision-engineered cacophony of pianio, violin, bass, drums and (occasionally) guitar, half way between vaudeville and rock 'n' roll. The violin swoops and keens, vying with the keyboard for the status of lead instrument. But then, in a way, everything is a lead instrument. Birdseatbaby are very much an ensemble outfit - the rock band idea of the lead guitar in front of everything else doesn't apply. The various members of the band joust for the limelight, too, swapping vocals and jostling for space on the Macbeth's compact stage.
'Incitatus' is a big, rumbustious opener, with its shouted chorus of "Flog that horse!" - and it's interesting to see the band front-loading their set with a song that previously was kept in reserve as a big showstopper. Birdeatsbaby have plenty of confidence in their new material, it seems.
Most of tonight's set is that new material, from the new album The Bullet Within. 'Hands Of Orlac' is all shimmering violin and Mishkin Fitzgerald's bittersweet vocal; 'The Lighthouse' is a combination of tinkling music-box piano an assertive crash-and-stomp from the drums.
'The Bullet' has an infectious sway to it, and David Bowie's 'Life On Mars' sounds entirely at home as a special guest at the Birdseatbaby party.
The band play it all with a verve and flourish that's sheer showbiz, which in itself illustrates the gulf between Birdeatsbaby's carnival art and the prosaic just-stand-there-and-play methodology of a rock gig.
Birdeatsbaby are, I suppose, more in the theatrical tradition. Those photographs on the mantelpiece are a neat detail of set dressing; the performance itself has the giddy feel of a theatre band hoiked out of the orchestra pit by an eccentric impresario, and given a chance to strut their stuff on stage. They don't waste the opportunity.