Izzy B Phillips flatters the crowd, is amazed by the crowd, works the crowd, toys with the crowd, makes them sing, makes them sit, makes them jump up, and finally throws herself into them. “We love you London babies,” she says after the swaying, swinging, ’60s-influenced power pop of ‘Bloodlust’, the second song of tonight’s Black Honey set at Shoreditch’s Village Underground. As soon as they open with their 2015 track ‘Madonna’, which would appeal to any acolyte of Wolf Alice, teenagers are rushing through the crowd to get closer to the stage and start moshing.
The Americana and movie references in the sound and lyrics of ‘Bloodlust’ (“You live for the magazine/In Hollywood/Dead on the silver screen”) are even more pronounced in the music of ‘Sleep Forever’, with a guitar twang from Chris Ostler straight out of a Sergio Leone western. The slow melody sees Izzy B adopting an American accent that’s been compared to Lana Del Rey: “I’ll lay my head back down on your chest, because I’m a wreck,” she sings, chorusing with “I wish I could sleep forever, ooh, I wish I could sleep forever, with you”, before the song speeds up to climax. Her voice just about copes with the tune and, moving on, she shouts, “London — you look like a David Lynch movie,” as if to reinforce the group’s cinemascope take on indie music. She even slings her guitar around like a wild west film star’s Winchester Model 1873 rifle.
Rabble-rousing ‘All My Pride’, with another burst of that fat, resonant western guitar, gets the moshers bouncing. Some mad guitar work is the highlight of ‘Teenager’, and new single ‘Somebody Better’ races ahead of itself, sparking more frenetic scenes at the front. “You guys look after each other down there,” Izzy B implores. Guitars sound like keyboards in last year’s bouncy single ‘Hello Today’, the crowd clapping until Izzy B makes them join in: “I’m gonna sing a line and you’re gonna sing it back.” Drummer Tom Dewhurst and bassist Tommy Taylor leave Izzy B and Ostler to perform a semi-acoustic version of ‘Cadillac’, with a big dose of that cinematic Americana in the lyrics and reverb guitar. “Sway with me,” Izzy B asks the crowd.
The last three songs of the set (‘Mothership’, ‘Spinning Wheel’ and ‘Corrine’) are an extended blur of moshing, twanging guitars and audience participation. “You know I think that this is the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen,” says Izzy B. “London baby, are you still with us.” She gets the whole of the front of the crowd to sit down on the floor, with hypnotic powers of persuasion. On her cue, the fans — by now entranced — jump back up. She warns them that there should be no asking for more after the last song: “We don’t do encores, but if you come to the merch stall we’ll say hi.”
There’s bit of Amy Winehouse in the way Izzy B approaches the slow parts of her songs, but her screams and yelps are pure horror film, starring Minnie Mouse. She’s never far from the picture house: “Corrine, come back to me ’cos we live in a movie that nobody else will ever see.” As the sing-along reaches a crescendo, Izzy B throws herself off the stage for some crowd surfing. Black Honey are oozing potential. As Izzy B says: “It’s been a lot of hard work and it’s only the start.”
Picture credit: Ian Bourne