I recently mentioned that myself and Aldo were heading off to Leeds to catch The Twilight Sad play their first UK show in 18 months and their first headline show since December 2015. I wasn’t sure beforehand if I was going to say anything after the event, but as you can surmise from the fact these words are appearing in a post on the blog, I’m now entirely sure that, unlike Rod the Mod and Everything But The Girl, I do want to talk about it.
First up, some thoughts on the city of Leeds. It’s a place I hadn’t been to for the best part of 20 years and the last time around I wasn’t all that impressed – but then again I had gone down to watch a day of cricket with a group of mates and we didn’t venture too far from the hotel bar or the ground at Headingley. The railway station, which had been the arrival point, was a dark and depressing place, reliant on unpleasant smelling underpasses to get you from one part to another and the city centre seemed equally unappealing with the pubs not offering much of a welcome to non-regulars.
The Leeds of 2018 has been transformed way beyond recognition. It’s not a city which seems to be incredibly dependent on tourism in that there’s none of these ‘hop-on, hop-off’ buses which are so common in such hotspots, but there has been a remarkable growth in the number and quality of hotels in the centre, with all sorts of new accompanying commercial and retail developments. There’s been an explosion of new bars but at the same time, many of the older traditional places have clearly upped their game, offering all sorts of real ales/craft beers and high-end vodkas, gins, whiskys etc. for the most discerning of tastes.
In short, the city proved to be well worth a visit and would be one I wouldn’t hesitate to return to if the opportunity arose, which it might well do given that the Brudenell Social Club has jumped straight to the higher echelons of my all-time favourite gig venues.
As I said last week, it was one of two long sitting on the bucket list and I had knocked off the other last year with a trip to Hebden Bridge Trades Club, again in the company of Aldo, when we had enjoyed Jens Lekman followed by a memorable afternoon and evening in Manchester in the company of the man in charge of the bagging area. The Brudenell, however, proved to be something else again.
The Twilight Sad have a long association with the venue, but even this was a first for them in that they were making their debut in the Community Room, a new part of the building which opened just last year. It’s a superb space, just perfect for gigs with its width, low-roof and raised stage offering great views no matter where you choose to stand. It also has the very best in acoustics and thanks to it being designed in a way that the bar area is separated and largely buffered from the main auditorium, it reduces the likelihood of the yakkity-yak nonsense which often spoils a good night out at a live music event.
Mind you, having had a look at the Function Room where the majority of gigs have previously taken place, I’d love to catch an act in there sometime of an evening as it had the look, feel and vibe of a very special place where an audience and singer/band would bond brilliantly; last Saturday is was busy with folk watching Croatia v Nigeria in the 2018 World Cup – I can’t imagine how rammed it would be if England and/or one of the big teams were involved.
So….with all this in mind, given that the city and the venue hadn’t disappointed, the onus was on the band to ensure the feel-good factor remained intact.
They took to the stage at 9.15pm and they ended a 14-song set at 10.30. They opened with a classic and they closed with something that was awe-inspiring, moving, powerful and as sensational 7 or 8 minutes as I’ve ever experienced in what is now almost 40 years of watching live music. In between, we got some familiar and often aired favourite songs from the back catalogue and were also treated to three as yet unreleased numbers. They sounded pitch perfect thanks to the afore-mentioned sound system and acoustics…..and while they are very much a five-piece band, especially in the live setting, there has to be special mention of frontman James Graham who is, without any question, the most mesmerising of performers whose vocal delivery and accompanying movements surely leave him on the brink of complete physical and mental exhaustion every single time.
It was fascinating to look around the audience when the lights went up. Given it was such a rare show, it had sold out quickly and of interest to fans from all over – you could certainly pick out a fair number of Scottish accents in the bar area beforehand – and so was always going to be one in which there were very few, if any, folk who were experiencing the band live for the first time. Most seemed to be, like myself and Aldo, quite speechless, coming to grips with what had just been witnessed; there were some in tears, understandably overcome by the intensity and emotion of the final few minutes. I’m sure if there had been an exit poll, the option of ‘best show they’ve ever played’ would have won a landslide victory.
The band have always been prolific in their use of social media. The following morning, as we sat down to a lovely and value-for-money breakfast in an old café which was defying the surrounding regeneration and partial gentrification of the canal area, Aldo read out what had just been posted on the official Facebook page:
“I’ll never forget last night. A room full of beautiful people. Brudenell Social Club is part of our history and will be part of us as we try to move forward. There’s no love too small x.”
That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy
Dennis Hopper (new song)
I Became A Prostitute
It Was Never The Same
VTR (new song)
Reflection of The Television
The Wrong Car
Arbor (new song)
There’s A Girl In The Corner
Cold Days From The Birdhouse
And She Would Darken The Memory
Keep Yourself Warm (cover version)
PS : Typing this up at 6pm on Tuesday night at which point The Clash are hoilding a narrow lead over Echo & The Bunnymen in the ICA World Cup quarter-final. There’s still time to cast your vote if you haven’t done so already – do you prefer Clampdown or Never Stop?