Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Gig Review - Benjamin Francis Leftwich @ Newcastle Cluny2, 27/2/11


After my recent moderate disillusionment with the consistency of gigs and crowds in Newcastle, I have now concluded that the Cluny and the Cluny2 really are the best venues in the city. An obvious conclusion, perhaps, but on the evidence of the overall atmosphere of the place, as well as the quality of the artists it attracts and the sound mix, it deserves to be praised for putting on gigs as brilliant as that of hotly tipped York-based singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich on Sunday.

Support act The Sorry Kisses provided an extremely surpring set, stripping back the huge Nine Black Alps-esque grungey guitars of their studio recordings for a wonderfully low-key acoustic performance that reflected an impressive musical versatility. Recent single 'Sunstorms' from the duo's third album Keep Smiling sounded lovely in its unplugged incarnation, with pitch-perfect, crisp vocal harmonies. Hayley Hutchinson's delicate vocals were initially reminiscent of a British Caitlin Rose in the first few songs, during which Sam Forrest plucked at a bass, lending the tracks a slightly American country feel. I was, frankly, pretty amazed to hear the difference between the live acoustic sound and their recorded material, however the adaptability of the songs and the band itself was very impressive, and provided a great live show in its own right.

Ben took to the stage with a confidence belying his age, and immediately the crowd became silent, hooked on every strum of a gorgeous new guitar (bought specifically for the tour, he excitedly explained). New single 'Pictures' sounded even more personal live, with the Cluny2's brilliant acoustics providing a perfect sound balance which allowed the lyrics to shine through. With tracks from debut EP A Million Miles Out, the upcoming follow-up Pictures as well as his forthcoming debut, due early summer, it was a fantastic showcase of old and new material that acted as both an introduction to the music, and a strong argument for the hype he's currently receiving. He looked extremely comfortable onstage, with some charming anecdotes and crowd interactions.

Aside from a few noisy folk on the balcony (who were soon told by a justifiably cross crowd-member to "shut up or fuck off", to a host of cheers), the atmosphere was captivating - you could have heard a pin drop, such was the effect of Leftwich's music on the audience. These songs might not be anything particularly new or radical, but they're well-written and warm, a winning combination that can be heard best on set-closer 'Atlas Hands', certainly the highlight from the first EP, and an excellent way to finish a mostly enchanting evening. With tunes like this, Benjamin Francis Leftwich could, and certainly should, be onto something big.


Benjamin Francis Leftwich's new EP Pictures is out on Sunday 6th March. Pre-order it on Amazon MP3 here.

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