With just two dates left on her first UK headline tour, Baby Queen brings a colourful attitude to a sold-out Cluny in Newcastle, cementing herself as a vivid performer who can still maintain the sense of intimacy she brings to her cult fans online.
Lizzie Esau is the one to open up the evening with a classic indie rock act from the host city itself, and her appeal is certainly not lost on the wide-eyed crowd. Goregously heavy instrumentals and rattling vocal lines warm up the evening before a guitar front is traded in for a soulful pop flow, shining a light on this upcoming North East talent.
Speaking of which, Luke Royalty enters next to grace some tracks from recent EP ‘my blue room’ with an exciting live rendition. A reflection of hometown loneliness and forced connection is communication through ‘blue peter’ and ‘32 / slide in’, documenting a very real journey as the Darlington singer-songwriter continues to traverse a genuine and engaging journey through the industry. Innocence and nostalgia emerges via delicate backing vocals, subtle guitar noodling and a driving rhythm section with audio tapes heightening the intimacy of Luke’s story. Closing off with the contrasting swagger of ‘I Do’ and ‘I Could Get Used To This’, another local rising talent continues to refine his multifaceted act in the region, priming himself for an inevitable exposure growth in coming months.
As a glowing pink neon crown is hauled onstage, Baby Queen’s spoken word mixtape opener ‘Baby Kingdom’ grieves the person she used to be before the throbbing bass and sonic blare of ‘Internet Religion’ accepts a new state of affairs. Although the setlist is mostly cut from the glossy production and cutting honestly of ‘The Yearbook’, a move away from bubblegum pop is obvious through Bella’s live sound, as well as a clear focus on strengthening her vocal chops.
‘Raw Thoughts’ has the kingdom embracing their feral nature and this is highly encouraged through generous crowd interactions, including a few social story features and holding hands with fans for an impromptu boogie. While her attitude dominates a smaller state, it is clear that the show is reaching for something bigger already, and she’ll soon get it through support slots with the one and only Olivia Rodrigo.
A great tease of the alternative vein Bella is currently tapping into during the writing process of her debut album comes forth through the moody ‘Wannabe’, a breathless test of Bella’s ability to exude her sharp thoughts. While she claims that a vivid nightmare during her first trip to Newcastle gave bad premonitions of the day, these have clearly been shattered just a few songs in and she stops to sip champagne to explain the empowering message behind an unreleased pop-punk tune ‘Nobody Really Cares’, an ethos that has fueled the Baby Queen journey since her move from South Africa.
On the other hand, some vague sense of longing and desire for escape still lingers through ‘You Shaped Hole’ and the shameful confession of ‘Narcissist’. While her self-serving observations and penned cuttingly, Bella’s band deliver a heightened tone to match the emotion radiating off the Cluny’s small stage. A blasting raw percussion adapts to bubbly electronic pads with ease, enabling Baby Queen to switch between the vibrancy she started out with and the scuzzy path she is slowly but surely treading down.
An uncharacteristic repetition of “ooh yeah” is debuted from another album insight ‘Lazy’, and it immediately proves an effective encore tease before the waves of ‘Dover Beach’ rise with a gentle verse and crash down with a cathartic chorus that is a true joy to experience live, releasing unwanted remnants of romantic obsession. Reaching for a role reversal in that narrative, ‘Want Me’ is the obvious finale during which Bella just about gets through the whirlwind verses and embraces the blasting injustice of unrequited love.
At the very least, there is no unrequited love in The Cluny tonight. Bella admits that just two years ago she was living in financial poverty and resorted to stealing sandwiches from supermarkets (“I finna pay ‘em back… JK, fuck Tesco”), and the appreciation for every person who supports her musical and identity-seeking journey beams from every inch of her physicality. Gifting a personal experience for the youth to whom her messages are a necessity whilst maintaining empathetic appeal for everyone else, Baby Queen is stirring a craze across the country, and hopefully this will soon extend beyond despite her reluctance to stop mocking the American accent.