Wednesday, 18 September 2019
MUSIC REVIEW: The Leisure Society - Night And Day, Manchester.
On a reassuringly chilly Tuesday night in Manchester, Night & Day Cafe played host to The Leisure Society. The gig was promoted by and in aid of ‘Street Noise’, a campaign set up by The Big Issue North, using musicians to raise awareness of their work and raise money to support the homeless across northern England. It is a good campaign for a great cause and I recommend you visit their site at www.bigissuenorth.com/our-work or check out @streetnoiseUK on Twitter. Night & Day Café is an integral part of Manchester’s live music scene and is frankly, just a great bar to watch live music in. When completely packed, it can be difficult to see the acts on stage from the back of the bar, but the atmosphere is great and the acoustics well designed. Tuesday’s turnout was indicative of a mid-month, mid-week event September, but the hundred or so punters that did attend were keen fans of The Leisure Society. Over a decent pint of ale, idle exchanges at the bar with a handful of punters revealed that many there had seen the band before and their live set was really good. The Leisure Society clearly have a hard-earned and loyal following.
I had opted for this review because it has been a while since I reviewed a music gig and I had heard of The Leisure Society, and that’s it. With no preconceptions I had arranged the review and set about pounding the band’s most recent album over about a fortnight to see what I was in store for. 2019’s ‘Arrivals and Departures’ is not an album that one would describe as ‘immediate’, but as I persisted it revealed some subtle melodies and evoked comparisons to other artists ranging from Gomez, through '60's folk to Rufus Wainwright. It makes you work for it, but it’s really good. So when the five-piece took to the stage I was unsure about how I could lazily pigeonhole this band for the sake of my review, but was certain that I was about to watch some real musicians take their craft seriously.
I am pleased to report that The Leisure Society met the high expectations of their fans in Night & Day, by playing a varied set which brought new depths to their recordings and demonstrated the complexity of their compositions. If I were to criticise the gig it was that, like many bands of their ilk, The Leisure Society’s back catalogue is dominated by slow tempo tunes and ballads, which struggled to get the rather subdued Tuesday night crowd going. Each song in their early set was well performed, excellently engineered and showcased Nick Hemmings and Christian Hardy’s song writing skills. Notable early highlights were ‘A Bird A Bee Humanity’ and ‘You’ve Got The Universe’, which received the appropriate applause followed by uncomfortable quiet. I felt sorry for the band because despite their warmth, energy and outstanding musicianship, we were giving nothing back.
At the moment I was settling in to a mindset of, “Okay I’ve got it. They’re really good, but it is getting samey now.” the set took an upturn with ‘Mistakes On The Field (Parts 1 and 2)’, which is a soaring, uplifting anthem that marked a shift in pace and energy. It is a great track and The Leisure Society really seemed to loosen-up. Subsequent songs in the set seemed to follow suit, which felt more varied and energetic. As a five-piece, made up of multi-instrumentalists, each song can ebb and flow in unexpected turns. I wasn’t a fan of the some of their keyboard heavy songs because they felt a little ‘hipster’, but that is needlessly sniffy of me. The use of the fiddle, played by Mike Siddell adds a richness to their tracks, and when infused into the guitar riffs of the bigger numbers, passes as an entire string section – stirring stuff! The three-song encore was indicative of their set, with a ballad, an up-tempo rock-pop crowd pleaser ‘Beat Of A Drum’ and some mid-tempo retro-rock, which were all impressive and well-received.
I left Night & Day to some knowing nods from my acquaintances at the bar that said ‘See? I told you they were good.’ and I smiled back in agreement. ‘Yep. They are.’ The Leisure Society uncomfortably straddle the indie/folk/prog-rock pigeonholes with considerable resistance, but their album ‘Arrivals & Departures’ is well worth your time and I recommend that you actively seek out their live set at your nearest music venue or (go on, if you really have to!) at a festival, because the band offer a set that never bores, never settles into one particular genre and consistently commands your attention. The Leisure Society are touring throughout September in venues around the UK and Ireland and I will be paying close attention to their next tour schedule because, like my compatriots at Night & Day, I am already eager to see them again.
Reviewer - Ben Hassouna-Smith
on - 17/9/19