Pop Live: Baby Bird 100 Club, London

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The Independent Culture
Steven Jones swaggers onto the stage in a dark suit and pink frilly shirt, with crocodile shoes and a lot of attitude. As cheesy vibes play, and a gentle rhythm is beaten out, he stands there looking out at us, left hand on the mike stand and paunch pushed out like some awful pub singer. This is cabaret, with a backdrop full of stars. This is the third episode of Our Friends in the North, all floppy collars and beery posing. This is easy listening with a rock and roll undercarriage.

"We're the Spice Girls", he grins. "I'm George Melly."

Baby Bird have wrapped themselves in myth. First there was the pale genius in his bedsit - Jones recorded 800 songs onto a basic four-track and released five DIY albums in nine months. Now the lo-fi days are gone, Jones has a proper band and a properly recorded single, and he wants us to buy Baby Bird, the cultural magpie. That's why he's at the 100 Club, home of the blues explosion in the Sixties, cradle of the trad-jazz revival and the birthplace of punk. Behind the bar there is a signed photograph of Acker Bilk and an old oil painting of some beatniks. "George Melly. The Sex Pistols. Metallica. Baby Bird," he deadpans.

The set gets off to a flying start with "Lemonade Baby", laying down the Baby Bird template: loping drums, retro organ, scratchy guitar, verses half-spoken in a warm, slurry voice, choruses that soar. "I feel so lucky. Just like Kylie," he sings. And then: "I feel so unlucky. Just like Dannii."

But then he comes over all moody - and the trouble with irony is that when you want to be emotional or sing about the homeless, no one believes you. The trouble with Jones's charming musical minimalism is that he runs out of tricks to keep us amused, and his lyrics are not as clever as he thinks they are. People say Steven Jones will be very famous indeed, and he might, but he ought not to be counting his chickens so soon.

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