SWEET BABOO / KID CARPET / FARM HAND | LIVE REVIEW
Transport Club, Cardiff, Thurs 7 Dec
“It’s always been a dream of mine to share a stage with Steve, and he hasn’t allowed it to happen tonight,” says Mark Daman Thomas of Stephen Black aka Sweet Baboo, gesturing to the amount of space occupied by the headliner’s kit. Not that Daman Thomas – a member of experimentalists Islet as well as the founder of Shape Records and the annual From Now On festival, performing here under his solo alter ego – would have been confined by the parameters of the stage even if there had been space. Over the course of his set, he stands on one table, takes a seat at another and shows off some line-dancing moves – all before prompting a discussion about the best way to cook couscous (the secret’s a stock cube, apparently) and dedicating I Hope She Knows to his “very tolerant wife, who lets me do this kind of thing”.
That Daman Thomas is a one-man Animal Collective with a penchant for electro weirdness and a psychedelically skewed perspective on pop is best illustrated by the title track of his debut LP, International Dreams, on which he outlines his continued preparedness to play football for Wales. “I’m 34 and shit at football,” he admits. But not at winning over an initially sceptical, seated crowd.
Neither is Kid Carpet, Bristol’s answer to the question “Is it possible to imagine a parallel universe in which Vic and Bob’s Mulligan and O’Hare have discovered the Sex Pistols, or Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods have morphed into a single person and found gainful employment as a children’s entertainer?”
Taking a break from his Christmas theatre show for kids, Snow Globe, but still armed with his array of toy instruments and mischievous sense of humour, Kid Carpet is evidently relishing the opportunity to dust off some old favourites for the benefit of an older audience. It’s fair to say that few attendees foresaw having a man smack “shooting stars” at them with a table tennis bat, and fewer still anticipated that they, along with everyone else, would be coaxed into standing, waving their arms and pretending to be a golden eagle.
Kicking off with Wild Imagination and Swallows from his latest LP, Sweet Baboo sheepishly confesses that, despite his best intentions to “change it up”, the set will be much the same as it was at this very venue six nights earlier. Not that anyone would be entitled to complain about déjà vu, though, given that this means we’re to be treated to tracks like Let’s Go Swimming Wild (from his 2013 breakthrough album Ships) and You Are Gentle.
Though he remains an old romantic at heart, Black has long left his campfire indie-folk roots behind, realising the escapist daydreams of his lyrics by venturing out into the wider world to explore hitherto distant musical vistas. Thus it is that “international smash” Pink Rainbows achieves mission impossible by giving white-boy funk a good name, set highlight Clear Blue Skies drifts elegantly along with ambient abstraction and new song Lost Out On The Floor – available via download code in exchange for a donation – is a commendable attempt “to write the best disco number this side of Boogie Nights”.
Sympathetically backed by collaborators Paul and Rob Jones, Black continually signposts the set’s twists and turns, distinguishing “mid-tempo rockers” from “smoochers” and insisting on having the Christmas disco lights switched on for the dancefloor fillers. Inspired by Black reading Phil Lynott’s autobiography while on the road, the band close the gig (and the tour) with a cover of The Boys Are Back In Town. They are indeed – something for which those of us who missed out on tickets for the previous week’s sold-out show are extremely grateful.
words BEN WOOLHEAD