The new wave has become a movement that is permeated by stream-of-conscience and sometimes plain nonsense lyrics. Nothing Baxter is singing about seems to have much meaning at face value: "He's a brave man, eating humus in the morning- breakfast imposter," sings Dury. Sometimes, it can be frustrating and difficult to engage in this kind of music. What is really the point of watching some guy come on stage and sing about his dad and some random phrases?
The magic of Baxter's music is that he did just that and sold out his show completely. I think it's because when you listen to Baxter, you get to pick up the phrases which sound best to you and you take away the ones that mean the most to you. You're in the audience, surrounded by people, and you all get to sing along to stories that are really just mostly a little passing collection of thoughts that feel like somewhere to reside in for a while before the next song.
This is one of the key things music is about: finding a moment we can be present inside, taking us away from our own lives for an escape to someone else's mind. It can be hard sometimes to find music that excites us when we are exposed to what is an infinite abyss of tunes. Streaming has created the idea of an infinite source of music- which is arguably a contradiction to intimate moments. Beautiful moments are beautiful because life is finite and often boring.
So what does any of this have to do with Baxter Dury playing onstage at a show in Bristol? I think its important to understand this because Baxter is an artist who understands that art should be simple in its beauty, and most importantly of all, freely open to interpretation. For an artist hounded by accusations of being a "nepo-baby," Dury presents himself fearlessly as an artist.
His poetry is introspective, but he takes from the outside world: he's always talking about the other things he can see and experience. Onstage Baxter is firmly deadpan in delivery, but physically moves around the stage in an unpredictable and energetic manner. Stalking the stage, he meanders around occasionally mirroring the powerfully outstretched pose shown on a projection behind the stage.
Baxter emerges in a gray suit and cheekily plays with the jacket in a quasi-strip tease. As the set progresses, he un-peels it to expose his many glamorous necklaces and jewelry. SWX has fully-transitioned from the drum and bass opener's rave, courtesy of OneDa, into a haunting disco shrouded in smoke and floodlights. There is playful interaction between Baxter and the audience: "we love you Bristol... It means everything to be here...I'm losing my voice but I'm not losing my heart." Grinning ear to ear and full of love, he tosses one of his silver rings into the crowd and it arcs through the air before plonking into a sea of hands. He disappears backstage.
Reappearing for the encore, Baxter dons an LED mask akin to Kanye's Yeezus tour get-up, and belts out his Fred Again collaboration single- Baxter (these are my friends.) Among an older crowd, the students surge forward to mosh along to the caustic synthesisers.
It was amusing to see Baxter scream about "white bread eating cockroaches" in his final outfit complete with makeshift bandanna as he danced around for the encore. I was quite unsure what seeing Baxter live would look like. For a man who has hidden next to nothing about the major events in his life, his music alone makes him a confusing character to decipher.
As silly as it might seem for a man singing about seemingly random thoughts, Baxter is brutal and unafraid, deeply committed to his art. He invites you as an audience to take a step into his own mind. He is a poet for the modern age- or as Big Jeff has put it- the writer of "deeply personal poetry of a troubled mind. It is thrilling and brutal." If you ever get the chance, I would recommend seeing the man who sold out SWX singing songs about Pale White Nissans and other associated objects.
Featured Image: Benji Chapman
Have you seen Baxter Dury before?