As Emmett Kelly, the main man behind The Cairo Gang, tip-toes onto a stage cluttered with instruments at 9pm, 26 people can be counted in Crawdaddy. Though the numbers do increase slowly before Baby Dee’s headline set, it is definitely the smallest crowd I’ve found myself amongst since Thao Nguyen in the same venue nearly two years ago. Those that have turned up seem dedicated while enjoying the gig in the comfortable seating arrangement that the numbers allow for.
After accompanying Kelly on his last two songs, Baby Dee re-emerges for the main set looking like a cross between Colm Meaney and John Lithgow in The World According To Garp. The seasoned New York performer, bedecked in an outfit that seemed to have been put together down in Mrs. Quin’s Charity Shop, makes the unusual decision to start the set with ‘Safe Inside The Day’, the title track from her 2008 album and arguably the strongest song in her repertoire. Baby Dee isn’t your average balladeer however and her background in performance art is evident in the way she (sometimes literally) commands both the audience and the four young men that comprise the backing band.
Baby Dee’s confidence is never in question as she laughs at her own jokes and instructs the audience to hold their breath during “serious” songs. In between songs orders are also barked at the band, to whom she gives affectionate nicknames like “Batchy Balls” and “The Famous and Talented”. The songs, on the other hand, are delivered with unique style and emotional resonance not to mention her trademark, roller coaster vocal timbre. The quirky but beautifully arranged songs almost invariably have a sinister quality to them, similar to The Beatles’ ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ if it wasn’t painfully awful to listen to. The assembled devotees enjoy every second of battered piano chords and sporadic harp-string plucks and, in their eyes at least, the evening was a huge success.
Photos by Damien McGlynn.