Born Blonde / Shepherds Bar
James F. Thompson gets down to a band who need to be seen live - just don't mention the 'V' word
Trawling through all the articles about Born Blonde out there on the internet, it’s fun to guess how many words will go by in each before the Verve are mentioned. In this case, the answer is 26. To be sure, the shadow of Richard Ascroft’s Wigan five-piece looms large over this London quintet, to the point that they even enlisted the help of Verve producer Owen Morris for their own recordings. Yet Born Blonde –whose members all appear to be decidedly non-blonde, by the way - also owe not inconsiderable debts to Doves, Ride and probably half the mid-eighties 4AD label roster, too.
All of these influences coalesce into a rather ethereal, spacey brand of rock that’s really best experienced live. In fact, after seeing them perform, it’s all the more apparent that Born Blonde’s recorded output so far doesn’t quite do justice to the grandiosity of their songs, coming over surprisingly flat (although with an album apparently due out later in the year, the band will hopefully beef up their sound).
As a live act, though, Born Blonde are an exciting proposition. Beginning their tight, six-song set bathed in an appropriately moody palette of blue-hued lights, frontman Arthur Delaney and his fellow non-blondes go on to deliver much more muscular renditions of songs like Radio Bliss, Solar and recent single I Just Wanna Be. Delaney in particular excels; his soaring, pitch-perfect vocals lending a real sense of scale to the proceedings. The rhythm section of George Day (drums) and Joshua Lloyd-Watson (bass) also benefit immensely from the live setting.
The group have spent a good chunk of time honing their chops as a live outfit and it shows; each track is virtually studio-perfect. Yet Born Blonde aren’t the finished article. For one, the brevity of tonight’s set – and relative paucity of tracks available online – possibly hints at a lack of material. For another, the group need to be careful to differentiate themselves from their musical forebears. Those endless Verve references are funny for the time being but perhaps a little too close to home.
Still, on tonight’s evidence these space rockers are well worth keeping an eye on over the coming months in the run up to their first full-length release.