The background music stopped and a version of ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie started to come through the PA. Benjamin Francis Leftwich walked on in darkness. He was followed by a solitary musician and it was clear we were in for some pure and unadulterated versions of songs from his back catalogue.
Benjamin started with ‘Sometimes’ from his new album Gratitude which was released just last month. From this album we were also treated to stripped-back versions of ‘Look Ma!’ and ‘The Mess We Make’. The rest of the set was comprised of acoustic versions of some of the best tracks from Benjamin’s previous albums and LPs, and arguably they were better than the studio versions. Musician Oliver Deakin backed Benjamin, playing keyboard and synth.
The venue in Leamington is an old ballroom with an art deco interior and some really striking brass images around the sides (funnily enough it was re-modelled by Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen). The problem is there’s a strange dichotomy. The venue is used as a nightclub a lot of the time and it smells like it!
Some portable blue fold–up chairs had been put out which gave the gig a calm and relaxed atmosphere. There was a blue curtain backdrop with big red static lights. There were also small white spotlights positioned to make star-like shapes above Benjamin’s head.
The evening began with support from local lad Joe Dolman. He was worth arriving early for and has his own gig at The Assembly in December. The song to look out for is ‘Close to Home’ which Joe wrote about a man he came into contact with at Myton Hospice. It’s a tear jerker. He says the video, which he made on location at one of the hospices, is even more emotional so have your tissues at the ready should you decide to look it up. His other songs included ‘Think It’s Strange’ and ‘Something Beautiful’.
If you’ve not heard Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s voice, it’s breathy but with a clear tone. It’s strong, moving and at times haunting, particularly at the end of ‘Tilikum’ from album After the Rain.
Benjamin had a good rapport with the audience, telling us about his ‘sick’ new water bottle with elephants on which his Mum got him for Christmas.
There were two points in the evening where Benjamin turned off his amp and mic, and on the second occasion even came out into the crowd to do a completely unplugged version of ‘Shine’; a bold move but the crowd loved it. This was in stark contrast to the lairy Brummies at the back of the hall who may have been hoping for a more energetic gig.
The night finished with a three-song encore, including what’s arguably Benjamin’s most well-known song — ‘Atlas Hands’ as well as a fantastic version of ‘4am In London’ and ‘Kickin Roses’ – which he dedicated to a friend. The lyrics of that song are incredibly powerful, and I’m sure stayed with the crowd into the night.
- Look Ma!
- Butterfly Culture
- Some Other Arms
- Box of Stones
- The Mess We Make
- 4AM in London
- Kicking Roses
- Atlas Hands
Review: Chrissie Duxson