It’s not something that I especially like doing but I’ve got to start with a moan. I have been to the O2 Academy in Birmingham three times to cover gigs in the last few months and twice there has been a pretty big delay on the doors being opened for people to actually enter the venue. On Saturday night ‘doors’ was supposed to be at 6.30 but no one was allowed into the venue until after 7.00 pm. It was cold, there was no communication from staff, we were all just left to stand there. On both occasions I was told that this was due to sound checks being late. I don’t know what the answer is as I’m not privy to the inside working of sound checks at the O2 but something definitely needs to be done about this as it’s simply not fair on the people who play a HUGE part in these gigs existing in the first place. The fans.
I tell you what I feel better for that. Now; for the actual reason why I braved the cold Birmingham night air in the first place.
If you have been a follower of this site or you follow me on social media you will know that I am a big fan of this lady. She released her debut album a few months ago and it is one of the most impressive debut albums that you will have the pleasure of hearing. I hadn’t seen her live before Saturday so I was really interested to go down and see whether what I heard on the record translates onto the live stage.
Baker opened her headline set with the summery bounciness of ‘Game You Play.’ All eyes had moved from conversation and the bar and towards the stage, it’s always a good start when you can grab the audiences attention straight from the off. If I have heard a singer on record I am always interested to hear that vocal live as that is the real test and Baker delivered straight from the first note. Any reservations that I had (And they weren’t many) were removed straight away. The songs took on a different feel live as there wasn’t the brass and violins which appear on the album but the change gives the tracks a new lease of life. The fact that the guitar was more prominent here was a pleasant surprise; the tone of that guitar was a beauty.
Ballad ‘Bruising’ was the first track that I ever heard from Baker and it was as impressive on Saturday as it was all those months ago. Although the pace had dropped considerably the audience were obviously along for the ride and greeted every soaring note and big chorus with great enthusiasm. When I reviewed the album I spoke about how ‘Breaking Every Rule’ sounded like a bond theme with its brass sections and beautifully sweeping strings and although these things had gone the epic feel remained. Subtle drum rolls and brilliant guitar work were more than adequate replacements as again the track was given a slightly different yet still epic spin.
You may be forgiven at this point for thinking that this was a really serious, straight faced set but just before we all started getting too emotional Baker threw in the brilliantly funny ‘Little Fibs,’ a track in which she takes tongue in cheek pot-shots at an unnamed target. As the track skipped and bounced through a great list of musical insults two women in front of me broke into something which can only be described as a drunken 2 step. I’d be lying if I said had been expecting that. This kick up in pace was exactly what the set needed and helped to give the performance a great flow.
Emotionally charged ballad ‘When I’m Not With You’ was due to be the set closer except that’s not quite how things unfolded. Baker and her band went through the full repertoire of guitar solos, shout outs to the band themselves, big vocals and an even bigger finish to bring the curtain down on the night, well that was the plan anyway. I mentioned above how much the audience had been enjoying themselves and exactly how much then became clear as shouts of ‘More!’ led to exactly that.
The following rendition of ‘The Price That I Pay’ was everything that the audience hoped that it would be. It was a brilliant way to finish what had been an impressive performance.
On Saturday night Baker flanked by her brilliant band only served to further enhance what is a rapidly growing reputation as an artist to watch. It’s not just me saying this by the way her track ‘Single Bed’ was named Best Unsigned Song of 2014 by Best Of British over the weekend. In fact the only disappointment from the performance was that there weren’t more people there to see it.
With a bit of luck Nina Baker could be about to make a real impact on the British music scene. She has a stellar debut album behind her, critically acclaimed singles, a live show which compares with the best out there and the awards are starting to come her way. Everything is starting to fall into place for the precociously talented singer/songwriter. Could 2015 be the year of Nina Baker?