My first trip to Leaf for a show for an amazing eighteen months was to see Welsh oddball singer Meilyr Jones, a gig I wasn’t too certain about as I couldn’t quite decide how much I liked the album, 2013, actually released this year.
To cut very much to the chase, it was a fantastic gig and has had me reaching for the album once more, which now sounds considerably better!
A quick disclaimer for the easily offended – there is more industrial language than usual in this review.
As the first band wasn’t on until relatively late, I had enough time to stop by The Dispensary for a pint of Rat Brewery’s pale, hoppy White Rat, receiving my first of the new, partially see-through fivers in my change (subsequently donated to a local homeless charity).
I got to Leaf early enough to get a seat on a sofa towards the rear, deciding to forgo another drink to save a few pennies. The DJ, presumably from promoters Harvest Sun was spinning some decent music, including a whole shed-load of Of Montreal.
The first band on the bill were the grammatically-challenged Her’s. I’d only heard a couple of songs by this duo online, but was looking forward to listening to more.
They’re locally based but consist of singer/guitarist Stephen Fitzpatrick from Barrow-in-Furness and Norwegian bassist Audun Laading.
Fitzpatrick’s voice is unusually deep, although many of the choruses featured some great falsetto yodelling. He wore his high-slung guitar over what looked like a mustard-coloured jumper from the distance I was at.
Meanwhile, Laading had an even higher-slung bass which he played quite furiously. He too was notably attired – in shin-length trousers. Overall, the duo reminded me (visually) of some kind of crazy cross between Modern Romance and Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
The second number was new single Marcel, which was prefaced by Fitzpatrick asking “does anyone here feel awkward?” When someone replied in the affirmative, it was then introduced as “this one’s for the awkward guy”.
The influences became more varied as the set continued, with hints of classic Postcard Records before the third song started off all jazz funk before leaping off from a fairly blatant stealing of the tune to George Harrison’s Blue Jay Way. But as George was once notably sued for alleged plagiarism, what goes around comes around…
The fabulously jangly What Once Was was introduced as their “big song”, and was probably the highlight of the set. They are definitely one to watch out for, and I very much hope to catch them again soon.
They’re a four piece from Warrington – guitar, bass, keyboards and drums – and I could imagine Goodnight To Arms, another track from their debut eponymous album due out next month, echoing around a more cavernous arena, or a festival main stage.
New single Operation Margarine was basically just one big chorus, with the more Arctic Monkeys-esque I Don’t Give a Fuck What You Reckon introduced with the words “I hope you’ve enjoyed it but if you’ve not enjoyed it I have to be honest…. I don’t give a fuck”.
They closed with a song that started off with some great “ba ba ba”s. I think they will go on to much bigger things, but they didn’t really do it for me, sadly.
After a load more Of Montreal, including much of 2007’s great Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? album, it was finally time for me to venture forward for Meilyr Jones, following some mutated monk chants as intro music.
He started with the opening cut off 2013, How To Recognise A Work Of Art, which came across like a big pop hit with a hint of Pulp. He then sang without his mike for some of Passionate Friend, with its beautifully yearning vocal. This one reminded me of a cross between Young Marble Giants and the British 60’s band Kaleidoscope, oddly enough the previous band I had come to see at Leaf (see review here).
Don Juan was the first of several numbers to feature violin, as well as a synth version of a harpsichord. He performed Refugees solo, with the band returning for the pastoral prog sounds of Olivia that namechecks both Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama and Beethoven‘s Appassionata, and featured both sax and viola (played by Richard Jones).
Props must go to the band (including Euan Hinshelwood, largely on guitar, and Emma Smith) who happily swapped instruments and generally multi-tasked throughout, with the bass being played by four different people in all across the evening.
In amongst the vast majority of the 2013 album, he also played b-side All Is Equal In Love while an unreleased song called Watchers started the encore off.
However, before all that came Strange/Emotional with a quote from David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel, during which Jones climbed down into the crowd as well as shedding his shoes. Afterwards, he said that it was a “terrible version of the song”, though I have to disagree.
After Watchers, he once more stepped down into the crowd, leaving his microphone behind, joined by violin and viola, with some subtle brass accompaniment from the musicians left on the stage as he delivered an utterly bewitching version of album closer Be Soft.
He was a charming presence throughout, ably backed by his talented musicians, revealing near the end that his mum and aunty were in the audience.
The tardiness of this review is no reflection on what was one of the highlights of the gigging year to date.
I decided on my only properly Welsh t-shirt for this evening, featuring surf instrumental band Y Niwl. I didn’t get a good look at any other tees in the crowd, but I saw Opeth, some other metal bands and The Jam at Central station while waiting for my train home. Presumably there was a metal gig somewhere in town that night, and there certainly was a Jam tribute show at the Echo Arena to celebrate the end of the fantastic About The Young Idea exhibition at the Cunard building.
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Here is the music from the night on Spotify: