Gig Review: Benjamin Francis Leftwich

Benjamin Francis Leftwich, with support from Marika Hackman & Joe Janiak.
The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen. 11th Oct 2012.

i have a habit of having my heart melted by smooth voiced boys with folk guitars and lyrics that make your brain work overtime, who turn out to be spectacularly awkward (endearingly, or otherwise) when put on a stage. i expected Benjamin Francis Leftwich to fall into this category. He did not.

He had a surprising amount of stage-presence, in his own understated way - at times charming the audience with his spoken asides, and appearing to really be in the music he was playing. It's hard not to love the music when the artist seems to do so so sincerely.

It's a long time since i've been to a gig - i used to go fairly regularly, but i think the last show i attended was Ben Howard and Noah and the Whale (LOVE!) last October, which was a jolly long time ago now. i'd almost forgotten just how much i enjoy live music.

i was tired and a little grumpy when i arrived at the Lemon Tree on Thursday night (a 6:30am start for work, tickets that said 7pm when they should have said 8, and a lot of standing around in the rain) and the crowd's insistence in talking loudly through the whole of both support act's sets did nothing to help the matter. i enjoyed what little i was able to hear of both Joe Janiak and Marika Hackman, though, and suspect they might be names to look out for in the future - Marika in particular.

Thankfully the crowd settled down for Benjamin, the headline act, and my mood improved along with them. 

i was quite anxious about seeing him live: his 'Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm' album is a beautiful piece of work - perhaps one of my favourites - but i was worried that the husky uniqueness of his voice wouldn't translate well into a live performance. Again, i was wrong.

Not only is he quite the charmer on stage, but he sounds good too. There's a less-polished edge to his stage sound - more rustic drums and guitars than the smooth production of the CD - but i think i might actually have preferred the songs this way.

i didn't keep track of the set-list (who really does that?) and can't find one online that matches closely enough, but it felt like a really lengthy set that must have included most, if not all, of the 'Last Smoke..' track-listing, as well as a couple of new songs - most notably 'In the Open', which is currently getting some airplay on Radio 1, and 'Manchester Snow', "About a girl I had intercourse with eleven times in one week!"

Particular highlights for me, personally, were his cover of Arcade Fire's 'Rebellion' which sounded as if he'd written it himself, and his own song 'Maps' performed with no microphone, guitar unplugged and audience entirely silenced. Goosebumps!

It was a really beautiful gig and, though not one of my favourite venues, the Lemon Tree was just the right size to make it feel intimate but not-at-all awkward. i was also impressed to note how rapidly after the performance's ending Ben appeared among the audience to chat, pose for photos and generally mingle - it says a lot about his appreciation for those who come out to see him.

He's on tour until early November and if he's at a venue anywhere near you, i would highly recommend popping along for a beautifully chilled night out.

So good!

(Side notes: #1) Yes, it did take me almost a week to get round to posting this.  #2) i have a habit of spending gigs glued to my camera, so set myself the challenge of enjoying the night without taking a single photo at this one. Mission accomplished. Next time i'll find the happy medium.   #3) How does anyone write posts like this without feeling like a massive numpty? The only thing i know about music is whether or not i like it - hardly credentials to review anything on - but i like having something to look back on.)


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