LIVE REVIEW: Honeyblood, Liverpool

Honeyblood

Liverpool Arts Club, Liverpool, 11th June 2019

Words & Photography: Gary Lambert

When Honeyblood come to town, you really should go to watch them perform and when Honeyblood come to town with a newly enhanced lineup and a new album to entertain you with, then should becomes must.  For that reason, I was happily sheltering from the traditionally ice cold rain you would expect in June in the Loft at Liverpool’s Arts Club venue.

It was not just Honeyblood who had changed either. A late set of unforeseen circumstances had resulted in Arlo Day taking to the stage to warm the audience up for the rest of the tour starting a few days prior to Liverpool.

On our Popped Music Instagram story (which you really should follow in order to see ALL the gigs we get to as music fans not just as reviewers and photographers), I described the sound of Arlo as being “delicate concrete” and I cannot find a more suitable metaphor.  Whilst at first glance Arlo Day floats towards an ethereal sound which would not fit opening up for Honeyblood, however as I got more and more used to the sounds of one woman and her Fender Stratocaster, it seemed like the perfect support casting. Whilst her music does not present the opportunity to unleash, the not-quite-gentle pace of her tracks is strongly reminiscent of the headliner’s quieter moments.

Despite having just released an EP of her own work (Bad Timing), the highlight of Arlo Day’s set had to be one of the most surprising covers I have heard in a while as she took Spice Girl’s most bombastic track, Spice Up Your Life, and turned it into a tortured ballad filled with loss which would make even the most hardened gig veteran want to give her a hug if those were her own words.

I had to remind myself that Honeyblood, well Stina actually, is Scottish as musically the sound of her work is definitely reminiscent of some of the great female-led American rock bands. In fact, even her speaking voice has gravitated towards a trans-Atlantic accent rather than her Glaswegian brogue.

Honeyblood has become a fully fledged solo project of Stina Tweeddale, and throughout the performance this is evidenced as Stina takes the gig by the reins and, whilst not standing front and centre literally, she definitely made sure that every part of the show was under her control.  To be honest, I have no qualms with that at all as she does the job so well, but for me there was obviously a diluted form of band chemistry on stage which is natural as such intangible benefits only come through repeated performing together over months and years. Because Honeyblood is now three albums into its life, the music is present far more than the performance. All of this is not to say though that the performance of Anna Donigan (ex PINS) on bass and Debbie Knox-Henson (ex Charli XCX) on drums were lacking in any such way, or that they were held in the shadows. Stina gave them a roaring introduction to the audience that showed her appreciation for them. It is more that you know they are still at the point where they are thinking about how they interact with each other on stage rather than knowing naturally the performing idiosyncrasies of each of their comrades.

Whilst the natural comparisons for Honeyblood would be the likes of Hole, I felt that two quite different acts in particular were being dragged forward in my mind as the set went on. The QUIET-loud-QUIET of Pixies was evident throughout, but I could not shake from my mind Kim Wilde’s Kids in America, particularly the 2006 version recorded with Charlotte Hatherley. It seemed such a strange link, but as I listened to In Plain Sight on the way home, I became aware of how much The Third Degree sounded like the eighties classic. Like stopping in a petrol station forecourt to write down which song it was aware. Although the third Honeyblood album is three weeks old and Stina is obviously very proud of her work, tracks like Babes Never Die are treated with love rather than necessity.

It is obvious that Honeyblood has the potential to do so much if Stina wants it. I hope that this line up settles into shape so that they can all grow together as a unit even if it is still a solo project.

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