A hot, hayfevery Tuesday night in Leeds, and the world cup is on (albeit not an England match: half the country’s still euphoric about the previous night’s scraped win though). You get the impression that the majority of the respectable and extremely respectful and appreciative crowd who arrive early doors to witness Lauren Rycroft aren’t interested in football anyway, and of anything, are grateful for the escape.
The young singer-songwriter stands barefoot, and delivers delicate, ponderous, contemplative acoustic songs with poetical lyrics about death and fear and crying, with the most haunting, soaring vocals. She possesses an impressive vocal range, and her high-end register is really quite remarkable. She commands pin-drop silence, and deservedly. She throws in a rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ that seriously good and utterly drubs The Corrs’, and goes electric for the final song of the set. There’s everything to like here, and you can’t help but suspect Lauren will be playing lager venues, and probably headlining them, in a couple of years.
Hm. Kumiko describe themselves as art-rock/folk/jazz. This was always going to be problematic, especially given the leaning toward the jazz element. They very much favour the laconic, funk-tinged jazz style, with sparse yet complex riffs delivered with a laid-back effortlessness.
At their best, they recreate the atmospherics of Portishead with guitars, and Francesca Pidgeon isn’t only a great singer but an interesting guitar player. She’s also got her work cut out tonight, switching between piano, guitar and sax now they’ve been reduced to a three-piece. I may not be entirely sold on their loungey-soul stylings, but I can’t fault any aspect of the performance or delivery.
Her Name is Calla are back. Again. Not that they ever went away. But violinist Sophie Green has been drafted to play for The Anchoress, so she’s been substituted by another player, Anja, who stands centre stage – and completely owns the space. Tom may be sort of hiding stage left (onlooking), but he – and indeed the rest of the band – are on fine form. There are the odd mistakes – as ever – but you always forgive one of the most charmingly affable bands anyway. Not that there’s much to forgive: this is one of their strongest sets in a while, and the exude a rare energy and a cohesion that really pulls the songs tight.
If I’m not mistaken (and I may be: their almost profligate output isn’t always easy to keep up with), they open the set with the first of a number of new songs, all of which nestle nicely into a dynamic set sequence.
The emotive, deep, ‘Pour More Oil’ lands as the second song on the set, and if their reduction to a four-piece limits their choral capacity, it does mean that they’re a tighter unit than in their more expansive incarnations. This means that the more direct material really packs a punch, and amidst the contemplative, quieter songs led by acoustic guitar and banjo. Lead track from the new EP, ‘The Dead Rift’ is a clear standout, and they conclude a wide-ranging set in the tradition of a blistering rendition of ‘New England’. It’s never the same twice, but eternally cathartic, and concludes in a collapsing squall of feedback. And it’s ace.