BABY QUEEN + VIJI – CONCORDE 2, BRIGHTON 31.10.23
When I was booked to review this gig back in late summer, Baby Queen, the musical alias of 26-year-old Arabella (Bella) Latham had only recently appeared on my musical radar courtesy of a Spotify recommendation. Having explored her original material further, this is a show that I’d been particularly looking forward to.
Feeling like a misfit since a move to London from her native Durban in South Africa at 18 in search of a music career on these shores and with ensuing feelings of guilt about leaving her family behind (as she explains in the lyrics of her track ‘Obvious’), it appears the move has been vindicated.
In fact, Baby Queen’s star is very much in the ascendancy as she has contributed no fewer than six songs including the launch track to the new series of Netflix’s ‘Heartstopper’ a British coming-of-age romantic comedy-drama. Warming up for the tour, she arrived at the Concorde 2 having played a series of acoustic sets which encompassed a date at Brighton’s Resident Records on Friday 29th September.
Despite having got lashed with rain walking the short distance from my car to the venue, I arrived to find around a third of the crowd at Concorde 2 in Halloween dress or accessories. To this end, there was a palpable party atmosphere for the hotly anticipated first night of her 13 date UK road trip in support of her forthcoming album ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ which had been delayed for release from September until Friday 10th November.
Taking confidently to the stage with her three-piece-band, the set opened with the introspective but powerful ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ with its infectious hook running throughout and a high bar had been set for the rest of the evening.
There are some heavy themes contained within her song lyrics, mental health, drug abuse, sexuality, loneliness to name a few, yet her original brand of alt-pop is uplifting and completely absorbing.
Bella’s ability to be able to dial down the tempo from dynamic to introspective and back up again carries the atmosphere to match her deeply personal compositions. This ability comes naturally as does her mastery of instruments which saw her on keys, electric and acoustic guitar with her band always aligned in perfect harmony. Contrast for example the stripped-down and reflective ‘Die Alone’ with ‘Internet Religion’, a blistering all-out pop track and you get the idea.
The message from start to finish is one of positivity, with calls out to the misfits and those who don’t want to grow up, the overriding message being that everyone in the space is welcomed and accepted unequivocally, whoever they are.
Final track of the night, the anthemic ‘We Can Be Anything’ was sung heartily by the audience as they had done for much of the evening and they effused every single word. It ended with Bella atop the crowd barrier, microphone held aloft soaking in the atmosphere. There is no doubt that she speaks for and inspires a generation.
This had been a fabulous performance from a talented and creative artist with natural stage presence and charisma. Baby Queen has indeed survived her quarter life crisis and can look forward to the mid-life one in a couple of decades with optimism, I’m sure she’ll be reflecting on past glories given her career trajectory.
Baby Queen setlist:
‘Quarter Life Crisis’
‘Dream Girl’ (segue)
‘You Shaped Hole’
‘Every Time I Get High’
‘A Letter To Myself At 17’
‘I Can’t Get My Shit Together’
‘We Can Be Anything’
Support this evening was provided by the Austrian-Brazilian London-based artist Vanilla Jenner aka ‘Viji‘ who with her three-piece-band are supporting the Baby Queen main tour. Creatively attired for Halloween in matching tutus and malevolent make-up, they treated us to a half-hour set of 90’s inspired original alt-indie guitar layered compositions with pop hooks. I particularly enjoyed the catchy ‘Sedative’ and the evocative ‘Sundress In Pink’ – well worth checking out!
‘Sundress In Pink’