I Am Blackbird – Deaf Institute, Manchester – 26th February 2010

Posted on March 1, 2010

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Manchester has a renowned reputation for being a hot-bed of musical talent, though occasionally that can feel like an over-played myth. There are seemingly endless amounts of bands with very little talent or direction and many gig nights in Manchester will leave you disappointed. Still, every now and then a band will come along and reaffirm one’s belief that Manchester does have a lot to offer the music scene and I Am Blackbird certainly fall into that category.

In Jonny Baldwin the band possesses one of the most serene and soulful voices around. A modest man, despite his undoubted knack for writing great songs, he sings with veracity and from the heart. He pens lyrics that will speak to many people (Well it’s the one good reason you need, she’s making a fool of you, can’t you see?) and the band are tight and clearly well-rehearsed. In fact, it appears from the outside that they leave no stone unturned. A careful selection of electric guitar tone, well-structured and instantly accessible songs and a passion that transmits to all who watch them – they really are the real deal.

They also make careful use of the cello which adds a mournful yet artistic dimension to the band’s overall sound. In all honesty the cello was too low in the mix at the Deaf Institute but the notes that were discernable added depth and quality to the songs on display. Ben Price’s bass playing is sensational. This is a man who has a wonderful ear for melody and never goes down the route of over-playing; instead he prefers to add exactly what is needed; subtle grooves that support the vocal melody rather than muddy the sound and confuse the listener. Baldwin’s use of a Martin acoustic is somewhat questionable given that its tone is far less pleasing than his Gibson electric but this is a small matter that does not detract from a wonderful performance by a seriously impressive band.

I Am Blackbird left the audience feeling like they had witnessed something special and it would seem that they are almost certainly destined for great things. They have outgrown their current platform and need to be heard more widely. It would be a travesty if they were confined to the Manchester music scene for a second longer as they are undoubtedly the best band around and therefore deserving of a big break. They make the hundreds of Mancunian lad-rock outfits, who regurgitate three-chord Oasis tripe, look short-sighted and ignorant. Unlike those bands, I Am Blackbird are creating music that won’t sound embarrassing or outdated within a year. They craft songs with intelligent arrangements and beautiful vocal hooks that stay inside the head for days after a gig.

Photography by Sam Ellis

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Posted in: Music