Let me start this little gig review by saying that I am not very musical. I don’t know all the technical terms or understand the different ways of arranging songs. I managed to pass my grade 2 clarinet when I was 12 but that was more from luck than judgement. I won’t be able to go into deep-and-meaningful, intricate detail but I would like to offer up my opinion, for what it’s worth! I’m going to link to the songs I mention on Spotify if you’d like to listen to the album versions.
I like listening to music, especially songs with a bit of depth to them, clever and/or interesting lyrics, little quirky bits that you somehow don’t notice until you’ve listened to the song a few times, and a good string section. Demanding, much?
Thankfully The Leisure Society fulfil all of those criteria. I first heard about them a couple of years ago when my dad and I caught the last part of an interview with them on Dermot O’Leary’s show on Radio 2. They did an amazing cover of Cars by Gary Numan which instantly prompted my dad to buy the album. Fast forward a couple of years and they released a second album which prompted me to nick the first album off my dad and discover what I’d been missing!
I’d known about the special “The Leisure Society meet the Heritage Orchestra” Barbican gig for a while but only decided to go a couple of days beforehand, in an attempt to be a bit more spontaneous. I’m very glad I did decide to go, because as you’ll see, I found it rather enjoyable.
I think that a good audience helps to make a gig great, and the warm up act ‘Loney, Dear’ definitely got the Barbican audience on their side – they got us singing and laughing along with them and joining in with a couple of the songs. The singer somehow managed to control all kinds of intricate loops and pedals and fancy gizmos whilst singing (and wearing a pair of distractingly yellow socks). I think I spent more time looking at his feet than anything else!
On to the main act, and after a little lull in proceedings whilst all the equipment was set up on stage, The Heritage Orchestra and The Leisure Society made their way onto the stage to enthusiastic applause, launching straight into A Fighting Chance, one of my favourite songs (EDIT: Someone’s uploaded a video of the Barbican performance of this song to YouTube, so you can get an idea of how awesome it was). The addition of the orchestra to the usual line-up made it sound somehow like the Leisure Society, but more, if that makes sense. For someone who loves the sound of string instruments it was brilliant, and I sang along, imagining bits of my brain lighting up, MRI-style, as my aural receptors sent musical impulses flashing along the wires.
They followed it straight away with The Hungry Years (which sounded even better than usual with the orchestra providing backup), a couple of slower songs and some banter between the two frontmen that had the audience chuckling. Save It For Someone Who Cares ticked along nicely for the whole song, accentuated by those gorgeous strings again, but just when it seemed like the song was over, the ending turned into something else entirely – a punchy, swirling, energetic outro that the band, orchestra and audience all really seemed to enjoy (check out a video of the Barbican performance here to see what I’m talking about).
The Last of the Melting Snow‘s sad-yet-somehow-hopeful lament to a lost relationship sounded even more emotional with the extra depth of so many more instruments, and the already-pretty-orchestral Into The Murky Water turned into a stomper of a tune with all kinds of banging and crashing, flurries of notes and flashing lights.
Lead singer Nick Hemming got a collective ‘awww’ from the audience for his introduction to the first ever live performance of If God Did Give Me A Choice, which he said that he wrote when in the depths of despair at getting anywhere in the music business. By the end of the song, all the band members and every musician in the orchestra were singing the chorus with gusto, and I suspect a good few members of the audience were too.
Finishing off with This Phantom Life (check out the slightly surreal video here) led to much applause, whistles and cheers until the band were ‘persuaded’ to return for an encore, which they did minus the orchestra. To be honest, I was so overwhelmed by it all at this point that I can’t quite remember the order of the songs but I know they did another one of my favourites, Dust on the Dancefloor (video here) which, even without the orchestra, was a fast-paced, rousing number. There was also a Leisure Society-ed version of A Little Respect by Erasure which was surprising but very good, and I know for certain that the last song of the night was A Matter of Time, the ‘outro’ to which I already loved (a slow-build combination of lovely soaring strings and a repeated refrain). Imagine my delight when the orchestra rejoined the band on stage to help make said outro a spectacular end to what was, for me at least, a mind-blowing concert! The resulting standing ovation was well deserved (in my opinion) and, from the sound of the cheering and clapping, the rest of the audience thought so too.
The whole event was very much worth going to, though I’m not sure my ears have recovered yet! The sheer volume of all those musicians made the concert an immersive sort of experience, and audience and band and orchestra alike all seemed to enjoy themselves very much – the best type of gig, in my opinion.
What unusual concerts have you been to?