Live Review: Black Honey – Manchester

Black Honey

Ruby Lounge, Manchester, March 2017

Words: Gary Lambert

Photos: Trust A Fox Photography

Manchester and Black Honey go together like Manchester and rain, or Black Honey and ace rock songs. When Popped Music met up with Black Honey in 2015, it was the day after a spectacular Mancunian gig which culminated in a stage invasion that was all over social media like a film star falling out of a limousine. On Wednesday 28 March, I was able to catch one of these famed Black Honey nights at The Ruby Lounge in Manchester city centre. Things were obviously different from the moment a tout asked outside the venue if I wanted to buy or sell any tickets. On a night of sell out gigs across the city, Izzy B and the gang were still hot property.


The first act to take to the stage was another of Popped’s regular favourites, Freak. We all know that Freak is sick, but over the last few months Freak seem to have matured as a unit. It could have been down to the smaller stage cramping their style, but there was a change in the air. There was distinctly less kinetic energy coming from the stage to power the audience, instead it was left to the songs to work their magic. And they did that and more. With time to breathe and focus, a bluesy consistency seemed to underpin the punked up pop tunes. I was able to sing along, jig around and smile broadly throughout the set. The smile turned into a giggle as the band covered Britney Spears’ dirty pop classic Toxic. However the real stand out moments were Cake and new single I Like To Smile When I’m Sad. Indeed, with the bridge between the two tracks taking things acapella, the audience was given a real insight into the quality of these songs. There is depth, emotion, feeling, and no shortfall of talent. Freak is sick. Let’s hope the cure is never found.


The greatest thing about going to gigs in basement clubs is that you never know what the previously unknown act is going to do to you. Often it can be send you to the bar to investigate the Icelandic hipster beers on offer. Sometimes though it can have you mocking your earlier internal monologue which bemoaned the fact a third band meant fifteen minutes less of each of your favourites. I hope that K.I.D. are not in the UK on a short trip from their homeland of Canada because I want to see them again soon. They offer a massive mix of pop, rock, and eighties-tinged electronica (without going down that oft-trodden Grand Theft Auto: Vice City soundtrack wannabe). And in frontwoman Kara Lane, they have a vocalist who can grab your attention, impress your friends, and make you feel like you are involved in a dirty, little secret. Her voice reminded me of a certain Miss Ciccone from New York who became famous in the eighties, and even more famous after that. But the rules state that you cannot relate female singers to Madonna if they are not blonde, so I won’t use the brand name in my comparison.


I had an epiphany at this gig. Izzy B Phillips of Black Honey is not just one of the hottest front talents in the British music scene, but she has become an icon and inspiration to the next generation of music fans. For me she is the leader and vocalist of Black Honey, who are one of the greatest hopes in British music. However for the numerous teenage girls and boys cheering her every proclamation and bellowing every word back, she is someone they can believe in. People can see the truth and honesty in her performance, and they hear it and understand it in the lyrics she sings. And as she ensures the crowd part to allow all the “bad bitches” to get in the middle to dance around together, the boys are told to make sure they’re okay as “we’re all a team together”.


Black Honey though are not a vehicle for Izzy B to entertain the masses. They are a band. As a unit they create a balance of delicacy and raw power. In fact, they sound more like they are a young, cool band from the Deep South of America rather than the south coast of England. Guitars swarm the audience with riffs as wide and dirty as the Mississippi, and with the emotive vocal stylings, at times they move from sounding like Vietnam era rock protestors to the natural successor to The Breeders.


This gig was without doubt the greatest performance I have seen yet from Black Honey as the electric crowd followed their heroes, and the band together thrived in response. You don’t need acoustic guitars, delicate vocals, and respectful silence for a gig to be beautiful, you need music you can believe in. And as the band played early favourite Corrine, my chest rose, my eyes filled, and I had no doubt that I believed in Black Honey. And I’m going to believe in Black Honey for a long, long time.


Hotties on tour for life. Is right.


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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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