Live Review: Sweet Baboo with Callum McConville and Turtle at Glasgow King Tut’s – 7th May 2013

By on Tuesday, 28th May 2013 at 2:00 pm

It already blows my mind sometimes when a British band makes their way to Washington to play one of our clubs. Earlier this month my brain had something to comprehend entirely: seeing a singer/songwriter from rural North Wales in a venerated club in Glasgow, Scotland. The club I’m referring to is of course King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, or more commonly known simply as the legend that is King Tut’s, and the Welshman in question was Stephen Black, aka Sweet Baboo.

There aren’t enough hours in a day for me to be able to check out every band recommendation I’ve been given by a 6music presenter, but in this particular case, I give major props to Marc Riley, who has always spoken of the Baboo in nothing but glowing terms, as he is the one who urged me to check him out. Black’s latest release, ‘Ships’ on Moshi Moshi released in April, is the first album of his to really capture my imagination, and I was so grateful that after extensively poring over the Glasgow gig listings for the second week of May, there was an artist I really wanted to see and wasn’t American. (Not kidding. Ask Martin; I was whinging to him about this situation days later in Newcastle.)

Callum McConville Glasgow live

Callum McConville was one of two local support acts. He’s a doe-eyed, 18-year old with a nice voice and good guitar playing skills, not to mention pretty boys looks that he could have fit right in on Skins. Not knowing anything about him, I was taken in by the admirable covers he attempted and did well. First was a version of The 1975‘s ‘Chocolate’, which he explained was one of the best bands he’d ever seen play live in Glasgow. Then he tried his hand at a reworked version of the White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’, which on paper shouldn’t work with a solo artist, but it actually sounded great. However, it was with his parting shot with a version of ‘All I Want’ by his “favourite Irish band of the moment’ Kodaline that he won me over. If imitation is indeed the deepest form of flattery, then McConville did his heroes proud this night.

Turtle Glasgow live

Turtle is the brainchild of one Jon Cooper, and he obviously has a strong following in Glasgow, as the whoops and cheers were immediately evident as soon as he and his backing band took to the stage. On the night, I had trouble getting past the fact that the bass player was seated on a gear box the entire set. Maybe he has a back ailment like Blaine Harrison of Mystery Jets? I dunno. As a bass player myself, I relish being able to stand with my guitar and project my body in whatever direction the music takes me, but post-gig after discovering this bass player was a hired hand and not really part of the entity of Turtle, I can understand why there might be a lack of keenness to stand.

Musically, I am a little confused by what Cooper is trying to do; at first, I thought, ok, this is a straight forward guitar band. But then Cooper would take to his keyboard and kind of go psychedelic. Then blips and blurps would come out, confounding me further. I’m all for eclecticism, but I think not knowing anything about the act before I came into the club, I was left wondering what exactly Turtle’s thesis sentence is. However, judging from the loud crowd reaction, my opinion was not shared by the majority of the punters present.

Sweet Baboo Glasgow live

Or maybe it being 6 days into my 3-week holiday in Britain, I was just itching to see Stephen Black live. The vocals of this idiosyncratic Welsh singer/songwriter can be described as lilting, but only mildly. I can see him being a bit Marmite and not suitable for everyone’s ears, as there is a slight crack to his voice that I find very endearing and incredible emotional in his delivery. I think therein lies his brilliance. He only played eight songs in his main set and two in the encore, and that was nowhere near enough for me. In new album ‘Ships’ (read the review here), songs like ‘Twelve Carrots of Love’ and ‘If I Died…’ make it clear that Black is (or was?) very much in love with a woman, and the object of his affection doesn’t seem to know the level of his loyalty to her. This is obvious on record as well as live. I could feel myself melting into a puddle on the floor as he played these songs, as well as a new one called ‘You’re the Best Beach I’ve Ever Known’, in which, as the title suggests, Black compares his lady love to a beautiful stretch of seaside. In the encore, Black played another new song called ‘Motor Home’, which he explained in his adorable storytelling way is truthfully about his attempts at convincing his girlfriend to use her hard-earned money (because of course as a musician he’s skint) to buy a caravan so they can travel anywhere.

What is not at all obvious is that the Baboo likes to rock out. Wow! You see this cute Welshman on stage, wearing a stripey shirt that made me immediately think of Bert and Ernie, and one moment he’s singing ballads while strumming his guitar. But the next moment? He’s jumping up and down and wailing on his axe, running up to his amp, as if daring it to come back at him with fuzzy feedback. He’s no Ritzy Bryan, but that was truly unexpected to me and made me so glad I saw this show. I think that’s the best part of live shows, really; if a live show is identical to queueing up the album on your record or CD player, then what’s the point of going to see a band gig? I really enjoyed this one at King Tut’s, not just to be able to see a show at a legendary Scottish venue, but I felt Black was letting us in on his personal life, telling stories between the songs and making us feel like friends than just people who had bought tickets to go to the show. I also met him after the show and thanked him for such a great set, and he was so sweet and genuine. The best part of seeing indie acts, surely?

After the cut: Sweet Baboo’s set list.

Sweet Baboo Set List:
The Morse Code for Love Is Beep Beep, Beep Beep, The Binary Code Is One One
I’m a Dancer
If I Died…
C’mon Let’s Mosh!
Cate’s Song
You’re the Best Beach I’ve Ever Known
Let’s Go Swimming Wild
Motor Home
Twelve Carrots of Love

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3 Responses

7:46 pm
5th June 2013


There’s nothing like seeing the best in people Mary and you clearly have this in abundance.

Astounding journalism.

Keep up the great work tiny tits x

9:58 am
6th June 2013

clearly the review of each act was written by a die hard Eastenders fan who instead of even subtly mentioning any positives is stuck on how people look and act and even how they sit….Jezus Christ, try adopting some gratitude that you even have ears to listen…who hired this mong?

[…] aka fellow Welshman Stephen Black, was up first in solo form. I’m really quite glad I got to see him play with a full band in Glasgow’s King Tut’s last year, as I had a reference point in which to compare and contrast Tuesday night’s […]

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