LIVE: Sweet Baboo & The Pictish Trail - Gullivers, Manchester

At a time of year when a cosy night by the fire can somehow seem a more attractive prospect than heading out into the cold to brave the elements, there is a risk that sticking to our usual rigorous gig schedule starts to feel a bit more like a chore than should the case.

But fighting our way through a bitterly frost-bitten evening in Manchester’s northern quarter, we found the solace we needed with a live soundtrack to match at Gullivers. The show in question? An intriguing co-headline tour that has been heading around the UK featuring former Slow Club and Cate Le Bon collaborator Sweet Baboo, and his good friend Johnny Lynch – aka The Pictish Trail.

Having made a late decision to head down after the former’s name jumped out at us, it is an interesting prospect that awaits. In what must surely be a first for the visually stunning, yet comfortingly modest surroundings of Gullivers, the pair play a collaborative set that is split into two halves with an interval in between. Each of them acts as the other’s backing band, alternating between their respective solo material throughout.

What is perhaps the biggest draw on the night, however, is the dry wit and heartwarming chat that takes place in between each number – it’s the perfect winter warmer.

Sweet Baboo speaks with a welcoming softness and slightly endearing awkwardness that is greeted by laughs and wry smiles throughout this extended showcase. It is not the hits from his 2013 breakthrough Ships that take precedence, but a smattering of stripped-back numbers that do a remarkable job of getting the crowd to participate in full voice – especially given that a lot of them seem unfamiliar with much of the material.

The job of turning the event into a half-music, half-comedy kind of a show is slightly easier for The Pictish Trail, considering that some of his material is purposely written with laughs in mind. His showcase of 2010’s In Rooms goes down particularly well, a record that featured 50 tracks, each lasting exactly 30 seconds.

When the evening comes to an end, it’s certainly not what we were expecting, but the surprise has been a very nice one indeed. If you’re a Glaswegian, the final show of the tour at Celtic Connections on January 20th looks set to be a cracker.

Patrick Davies