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Baby Dee with The Cairo Gang

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cover image Even though she spent most of the concert hidden behind the piano, Baby Dee was born to be on stage. Her infectious humour, her filthy laugh and above all her magnificent songs can capture the heart of any audience (as evidenced by the group of people seated next to me who appeared to have only gone to the gig on a whim and left having thoroughly enjoyed themselves). Combining the mirthfully miserable with the gloomily gleeful, her bipolar approach to songwriting hit far more highs than lows tonight. Joined by an equally dazzling backing band, Baby Dee’s performance was as brilliant as always.



26 February, Dublin, Ireland.

cover image The Cairo Gang, the name under which Emmett Kelly performs, recently came into the spotlight thanks to a viral video advertising the new Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy album. Kelly and Will Oldham are combining their talents on that forthcoming disc and based on his performance tonight, the two of them are well matched. Kelly’s voice is a smoother cousin to Oldham’s gravelly drawl, his fingerpicked guitar providing a strong foundation for his sentimental (yet not saccharine) lyrics. Starting out alone, he sounded a little isolated on the stage but once he was joined by his band (who were, conveniently, Baby Dee’s band including the lady herself), his songs leapt off the stage with a marvellous passion.

After a very short break, everyone returned to the stage to play some of Baby Dee’s music. Drawing largely on songs from Safe Inside the Day and her new (or old depending on how you look at it) album A Book of Songs for Anne Marie, the set list tonight was as fun as it was beautiful. Songs like “Set Me as a Seal” and “Safe Inside the Day” Elsewhere, “Fresh Out of Candles” saw the band really let rip; its stomping “I’m Waiting for the Man”-style ending sounding like a runaway train careering through the venue. Alex Neilson was in danger of drumming through his kit by the end of the song.

cover image As usual, “So Bad” creates a weird mix of uneasy squirming and belly laughs. It strikes to the funny bone in a way that makes me unsure as to whether I am actually disturbed or amused by the visions of Jesus beating up my mother (although to be honest I think my mam would batter Jesus easily). This shift from the compassionate to the absurd is part of what makes Baby Dee such a captivating performer. Her ability to make you laugh and make you cry across a concert is a rare gift. While I have no doubt that she would be capable of the same effect on her own, her performance was bolstered considerably by her backing band. Kelly, whose backing vocals complemented Dee’s wonderfully, was also accompanied by cellist Matthew Robinson and double bassist Joe Carvell (who both appear on her latest album). The strings not so much fleshed the songs out but decked them out in stunning regalia. The evening climaxed with a terrific rendition of “The Only Bones That Show” with everyone on stage playing with such joy and enthusiasm that everyone in the room had a big, stupid grin on their faces. Even now, I’m smiling thinking back on it all.

Last Updated on Sunday, 28 February 2010 16:42  


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