LIVE: Black Kids / La Dharma - Birmingham Castle & Falcon, 08/09/2022 1

LIVE: Black Kids / La Dharma – Birmingham Castle & Falcon, 08/09/2022

It was a nice surprise indeed to see an announcement for Florida’s Black Kids’ ’Hugs and Kisses’ tour, as many presumed the band to be currently dormant, (especially with singer Reggie Youngblood more recently being a member of Blunt Bangs). Personally it was also a bonus that they were including the brilliant Castle & Falcon venue (one of Birmingham’s finest) in the itinerary. The stage was set, literally and metaphorically, for a triumphant return to a city where they played a sold out Academy show for their 2008 Top 5 Bernard Butler-produced debut album Partie Traumatic and returned soon afterwards as special guests of Kaiser Chiefs on their arena tour.

Warming up the (literal) stage tonight are local lads La Dharma who accordingly have their own crowd in too to see them perform a set of commercial (as in catchy, not in a bad way) indie rock songs, like a heavier version of The Feeling (also not in a bad way, I like The Feeling). They sound well-rehearsed, ’tight’, to use a slightly retro term and their original songs sit well next to a respectful cover of ’Running Up That Hill’ (I’m sure I’ve heard that song before but can’t quite place it).

Their set goes down well with a crowd eagerly awaiting the headliners, who soon appear and, although a full run-through of Partie Traumatic is promised, opt to begin with a couple of songs from their second and most recent album, 2017’s Rookie; the brilliant ’In A Song’ , which has a killer Peter Hook-style bass line in the chorus and is effortlessly tuneful like all of the band’s output, and ’If My Heart Is Broken’ , introduced by the sparkling keyboards of Ali Youngblood, (one of two siblings in the band alongside singer / guitarist Reggie) and Dawn Watley, which are such an intrinsic part of Black Kids’ identity.

Reggie explains that the band are “helluva nervous but psyched” to be back in the UK for the first time since 2009 but they needn’t worry as the positive reaction to those first two songs goes into overdrive as ’Hit The Heartbrakes’, the opener from Partie Traumatic, begins and sounds absolutely mighty, the call-and-response vocals “Knock knock, who’s there?” delivered by almost everyone in the room as well as Reggie, Ali and Dawn. The title track follows next and it becomes clear that they aren’t messing with the running order as other artists sometimes do at these kind of shows. By the time they are into ‘Listen To Your Body Tonight’, everyone here is wondering how they’ve done without them for the last 13 years.

Black Kids 3
Black Kids

The atmosphere ramps up still further with the next song, the second Black Kids’ hit ‘Hurricane Jane’; a wonderful rendition is duly delivered, Reggie’s and Ali’s vocals again combining magically, the former a little bit Robert Smith in his delivery which suits these songs perfectly and contrasts nicely with the more honeyed sound of Ali’s voice. There’s a namecheck for Maz, all the way from Barbados for the show on his birthday. He sets a fine example, dancing and singing at the front having by his own admission ”the best birthday ever”!

A couple of songs later and the band’s biggest hit, ’I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You’ is met with one of the most euphoric reactions I have seen in a long time, smiles are wide and the singalong factor is high. Reggie seems genuinely taken aback by the reaction, so much so that he jokingly starts playing the song again – there would have been no complaints had he continued.

The rest of the album follows faithfully, still sounding more like a Greatest Hits album than a regular studio album, the songs all greeted like hit singles. The record’s final track, (also an actual single), ‘Look At Me (When I Rock Wichoo)’ is another absolute triumph and you wonder why it wasn’t Number 1 for at least a month.

The album is gone in a flash, and the band leave for a moment, to return for a lower-key moment, B-side ’You Only Call Me When You’re Crying’, plus rarity ’Designs On AKA You’, which didn’t make Partie Traumatic but is on their new early recordings compilation Extended Ahhhhhs, (the title a nod to their breakthrough E.P. Wizard of Ahhhs), and then rounding off the night with their latest single to date, the atypical and hilariously radio-unfriendly ‘Obligatory Drugs’, a song built around a repetitive bass groove which is quite unlike anything else the band have put out.

I speak to someone I know in the crowd immediately after the band have left the stage. She’s frantically looking up where they are playing tomorrow. It was that kind of a night.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.