Live Review: Black Honey at Heaven, London

Brighton quartet Black Honey have a band name that oozes sticky sweetness and hints at a more sinister, darker edge. We arrive at tonight’s gig, wondering whether they’ll attract more flies in the form of fans with honey or vinegar. Having listened to their infectious songs on repeat for the entire week prior we have enjoyed both the sweet (melodies) and the tarnished (hooks).  Combined they create utter earworm material as every song is instantly hummable and memorable.

Tonight’s gig is taking place at Heaven in Charing Cross, normally a club venue, and the security guards in hi vis jackets add to the day-glo club atmosphere. Having heard that Black Honey’s fans are quite cult-y,  we are curious to discover whether they are pop kids or the indie crowd, which is answered in part when we notice a couple of their fans wearing IDLES and Stone Roses t-shirts.  It’s great to see so many people out for this sold out mid-week gig featuring Black Honey’s new sticksman.

We know we’re in for a good night when Black Honey’s intro begins – bowel shattering bass sounds along with a rap backing track announcing their arrival on stage.  They then launch into “I Like The Way You Die”, written in collaboration with Carl Barat and The Prodigy’s co-writer Olly Burton, which is the debut track off their new album Written & Directed. The band have the rare skill of being able to write really catchy songs.  It’s remarkable how a band can write so well so early on in their career – this being only their second album – and we wonder whether their openness to collaboration has helped with this.

Their stomping opener is followed by glorious indie anthem “All My Pride”.   The audience are later invited to join in with singing on ballad “Corrine”, which they do and gives a festival vibe to the show. After a handful of songs indulging in pure frontwoman pizazz that Shirley Manson would be proud of, singer Izzy B. Phillips straps on a guitar for the rest of the gig.

Black Honey are all about being inclusive and “owning your own weird” which resonates with us.  Towards the end of the gig the singer asks for women and non-binary members of the audience to come up front and requests the lights to go up, which shows they are serious about diversity. On the gig blurb the band say they want to “Kill Bill” it and let girls be the protagonist – tonight’s gig is indeed all killer and no filler and Black Honey would certainly fit nicely on a Tarantino soundtrack.  Tremolo effect guitars feature heavily throughout the evening and, unlike the echoing reverb on drum sounds from the 80s, it’s a classic, timeless sound that still works well in today’s high tech (gear) world. After the gig we feel a craving to listen to Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” for more.

Just before the end of the gig, singer Izzy B. Phillips thanks the audience teasing that they are Wolf Alice – they are, thankfully for us, way better.  They end with one of their heavier songs, pandemic-friendly named “Disinfect,” and fantastically upbeat “Run for Cover.”

Tonight is a great end to Black Honey’s UK tour and a new beginning for fans gladly joining the cult of Black Honey. We are glad to have caught them at this stage of their career as the combination of their gloriously catchy tunes and top-notch stage performance is sure to bring them to a much larger audience and venue soon.

Find out more about Black Honey on their official website.

Review by Caroline Low

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