by Jacob Wingate-Bishop
Brighton-bred indie rock act, Black Honey, have carved out a loyal following with sweat and blood since their self-titled 2018 debut. 2021 saw the Wild West-inspired Written & Directed and last month the group unveiled their third effort, A Fistful of Peaches. The album is a testament to what the band have made so far, combining lyrics on the mental toll of 21st century life with catchy choruses and fuzzy licks.
On the final, sold-out night of their 2023 tour, Honey put on a dazzling show at London’s KOKO, promising a setlist of live staples and overlooked delights.
Punk rock act Bad Nerves kicked things off with a set of catchy – if repetitive – numbers, promising crowd-wide excitement and Gallagher-esque attitude in equal measure. But the real opener for Black Honey was an Elvis impersonator, in something that’s become a bit of a meme throughout the group’s latest tour. Timeless classics like ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Suspicious Minds’ were souped up into Greased Lightning-esque hits, and the King himself conducted the audience with every quiff flick.
Soon, Honey frontwoman Izzy Phillips graced the stage, looking like some mad toss-up between Monroe and Lady Gaga. ‘Charlie Bronson’ – A Fistful of Peaches’ stomping opener – proved just as solid an introduction live, barrelling into first-album favourite ‘All My Pride’ and ‘Tombstone’, a crunchy deep cut that already the crowd knew intimately.
‘Beaches’, a surf rock piece from 2021’s Written & Directed remains a highlight in a live environment, with ‘Spinning Wheel’ turning into all-out chaos; Philips commanding the crowd to mosh and make havoc. ‘Heavy’, one of the singles from the group’s new album, details frontwoman Izzy’s struggle with mental health, set to a soaring anthem of distortion. It was clear everyone in the crowd that night resonated with the message and set about shaking the voices loose by headbanging in tandem.
‘I Like the Way You Die’ followed in another stomping track, before it was time to dive back into …Peaches. ‘I’m A Man’ and ‘Rock Bottom’, two personal favourites, showcased the best of the group’s world-weary cynicism and explosive harmonies, spiralling into Honey’s heaviest offering to date, ‘Disinfect’.
‘Midnight’, one of the more overlooked tracks from Black Honey’s shimmering eponymous effort, proved a glitter-clad beast live, blurring the line between hard rock and dance-pop. After a short break, the band waltzed back onstage as if KOKO were their castle, a mannequin head of herself under Phillips’ arm. ‘Out of My Mind’ – another cut from A Fistful of Peaches – had the crowds bellowing, and ‘Run for Cover’ evolved into an unstoppable freight train bound for Camden, as fists pumped the air and vocal cords stretched to snapping point.
A ritual by now, Black Honey closed their career-defining set with ‘Corrine’, a mellower, pre-hangover ode from the heart. Phillips surfed the crowd, soaking up every minute among those she considered her family. The guitars roared one final time, drums clapped like thunder, and the time had come to go home. Black Honey were buzzing from excitement, and the crowds filed out exhausted, but very much rocked.
The indie four-piece have gone from strength to strength since their debut, and that night at KOKO made one thing abundantly clear: they’re not going to stop anytime soon. As long as there’s fog in the brain and jacks in the Marshalls, Black Honey are sure to dominate the airwaves with crunchy rockers galore.