BENJAMIN Francis Leftwich came to Night and Day Café at Manchester on Tuesday (April 3). Quays News entertainment reporter Alicia Boukersi went along…
Fairy lights flicker. Candles gleam. A disco ball rotates nonchalantly from the ceiling. The setting for Lefwich’s first Manchester gig on his After The Rain tour is simply euphoric.
The first thing that hits you as soon as you walk into Night and Day is the sheer intimacy of the venue. The interior is decadent, yet vividly lit. It feels warm and relaxed – friendly vibes surround the room and make the venue as idiosyncratic as the acts that perform within it. The tone is distinctly mellow as the audience; mainly made up of young couples, wait for the show to begin.
— Benjamin Leftwich (@BenLeftwich) May 4, 2016
Talking to Ben before the sold-out gig, he mentioned how much he loved the venue, saying that nine years after his first Manchester gig, “it’s still just as cool”. He previously played at Night and Day when he was 17 and instantly fell in love with the venue as well as the city. The idea for his first album ‘Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm’ stemmed from his redoubtable love of Manchester and the people he met there.
The night opens with supporting artists, The Lungs. With their trademark look of shaved heads, Bonnie and Theo look every bit as edgy as their music. It’s hard to say exactly what genre the duo, hailing from York, fit into. Their effervescent five-song set blends folk, soft-rock, and an air of country Western to create a kooky yet alluring sound. It is a polyphonic mesh of indie bliss. The audience’s reaction to the duo is curious indeed, as they proceed to sway their arms, tap their feet and laugh at the “creative” song titles: ‘Julie Anne Button Maker Pt 1’, ‘Julie Anne Button Maker Pt 2’, ‘Julie Anne Button Maker Pt 3’.
@thelungsyork sounded good tonight guys at night and day, great set!
— Michael Brown (@mbrownboy) May 3, 2016
After an interminable wait, Leftwich finally takes to the stage. With no formal introduction, he sweeps into the painful world of ‘Tilikum’, his personal favourite song. His voice floats and echoes euphonically as the lyrics transport him back to the wake of his father’s death in 2013. His facial expressions are conspicuous and tell the story behind every evocative word.
‘Shine’ comes next. The song is instrumentally stripped back, exposing bare the softness of Ben’s vocals. The spirited audience sings along word for word, connecting them together, and creating an amazing atmosphere.
Between songs, Leftwich stays forever humble – constantly thanking the audience for turning up and being calm and welcoming. You do have to give props to the audience who remain silent throughout the gig – allowing the artist to deliver plenty more hauntingly beautiful tracks.
Ben’s music is melancholic and poetic, but his taste in music is the opposite, citing Katy Perry ‘Teenage Dream’ album as his guilty pleasure. He said: “Hot and Cold, ET, Dark Horse. They’re cool. I listen to the music I love. A bit of hip-hop. I like the new Drake album that’s just come out, and there’s Kanye”.
In ‘Atlas Hands’, Ben’s voice is nothing but a haunted whisper, swooping elegantly upwards into falsetto within the same breath. It sends shivers down the audience’s spine as he sings about broken hearts and the love he’s lost.
@BenLeftwich amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing?
— sav (@bradsavagew) May 3, 2016
‘Butterfly Culture’ is a personal highlight. The song captures delicate, soulful storytelling through ethereal vocals. The dramatic light show makes the gig both visually and aurally compelling.
The set ends with a three-song encore, including ‘1904’, which is delivered with energy more faraway and dreamier than expected. It is intense, due in equal parts to the innate bleakness in the lyrics and the sharp guitar acoustics.
— Darren Scott (@DarrenTheHat) May 3, 2016
It was always clear that Leftwich would venture into music. He started singing at the age of 10, and when asked what he’d be doing if he hadn’t found fame, he replied casually: “I’d probably be working in a café back in town. Trying to be chill. Listening to as much music as possible”. But he insists that’s not what he wants to think about. Instead, he is looking to the future where he expects to “write more songs, create more music, and collaborate with more artists”.
Overall, the gig was breathtaking. Ben Francis Leftwich is one of those musicians that’s able to take an audience, toss them around through a complete wash of emotions, and have them leaving thoroughly blown away.
Benjamin Francis Leftwich was incredible last night. And The Lungs were so edgy. Loved it all x
— amy (@amylodaf) May 4, 2016
By Alicia Boukersi