POP& JAZZ

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The Independent Culture
Baby Bird are at the Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms (01705 863911) on 17 Oct, and the Brighton Zap Club (01273 709709) on 20 Oct

Sometimes justice does prevail in the world. Celine Dion may have a pounds 900,000 video that received a five-minute plug on TOTP last week, promoting her awful new single, but she was no match for Sheffield's still semi-obscure Baby Bird. While Ms Dion duly entered the singles chart at number four, Baby Bird, led by the intelligently eccentric Stephen Jones, slipped in one place higher at number three with "You're Gorgeous", to surprise all round. But they deserved it. Especially band songwriter Stephen Jones. The twinkle-eyed dude with the slicked back hair, heavy pink complexion and penchant for frilly shirts is a charismatic misfit.

His tunes are clear-headed, hummable mini-dramas and his voice is an affable bellow, but his lyrics are twisted, satisfyingly so. "You're Gorgeous" may sound like a soppy love song, but was actually inspired by old car adverts in motor magazines, the ones sporting half-naked ladies with come- on smiles. Being a subversive sort, Stephen takes the photographed woman's side in "You're Gorgeous": "You threw me on the bonnet/ And pulled my legs apart/ You rubbed an ice cube on my chest/ Snapped me till it hurt".

"The song's done humorously, but it's quite serious," Stephen points out. "How would it seem if a man was flung on a car, told to spread his legs and treated like that?"

Baby Bird gigs have divided audiences. The kitsch glamour - suits and flamboyant shirts - plus Stephen's flow of sometimes intimidating witticisms on-stage - mostly leaves folk smiling, but some denounce him as an arrogant Northern cabaret singer. Which really hurts because he's a sensitive chap. "I'm actually very shy, that's why I need a drink before I go onstage. Baby Bird's success gives me the confidence to carry on."

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