Baby Queen at Heaven gig review: lack of raw energy made up for with sheer likeability

 (Charlotte Alex)
(Charlotte Alex)

“Think about the person you are when nobody’s watching you, and be that person.” Advocating for uninhibited fun at her final headline show of 2022, Bella ‘Baby Queen’ Latham led by example at Heaven last night. She delivered a playfully cathartic alt-pop set melding sharp-tongued satire with brutal emotional bloodletting.

Renowned for snappy soundbites tackling mental health struggles, drug abuse and the toxic influence of social media, lyrics are unquestionably the South African singer-songwriter’s forte.

And though only longlisted for the BBC’s Sound Of poll as recently as January, the 25-year-old’s commitment to no-holds-barred candour is already inspiring a level of fervour usually reserved for stars 10 times her stature.

Last night, that passion manifested itself in word-perfect, venue-wide scream-alongs; later in the set it was revealed that several fans had flown into the UK for the show, from countries including France, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Perhaps drawing on her recent experiences supporting Olivia Rodrigo in Europe, Latham seemed utterly unfazed by the adoration on display. Instead, she remained laser-focused on leading her three-piece band through a slick set of sugary pop-punk and grunge-pop, bolstered by backing tapes featuring additional instrumentation and vocal harmonies.

 (Charlotte Alex)
(Charlotte Alex)

Sadly, this reliance on pre-recorded material ultimately served to rob the show of any real sense of spontaneity, bar an unplanned encore of Online Dating prompted by a playback malfunction.

What the show lacked in raw energy, Latham made up for in sheer likeability. Covering every inch of the stage and frequently diving down to the barriers to interact with fans, she proved an attentive and enthusiastic frontwoman throughout.

And in contrast to what was often quite heavy subject matter, she displayed a keen sense of the absurd too, donning a metallic, Baby Queen-branded superhero outfit for her biggest hit Dover Beach, and dancing with a man in a giant fluffy bunny suit during latest single Lazy.

The night’s most affecting moment preceded a performance of These Drugs, a song which details her experiences self-medicating to escape depression. Audibly choked, she explained, “I love songs but I have a complicated relationship with them. To continue to be honest with you, I’ve had to dig deeper into myself, unearthing parts of myself I didn’t want to see the light of day.”

As painful as the process of mining that trauma undoubtedly is, in doing so, Latham is proving herself the very rarest of propositions: an emerging pop artist who is 100 per cent authentically herself.