It’s almost 18 months since Benjamin Francis Leftwich released his debut album, but last night (17 October) he brought a fresh Snowstorm to Birmingham’s Irish Centre.
For whatever reason, some music just works better in the cold, grey months of the British autumn and winter. And, as his album’s wintery title may suggest, Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm benefitted from being performed on a dark and chilly October evening.
Like the precipitation he so often writes of, Ben is a magnetic figure on stage, easily creating a palpable atmosphere with his warm guitar sounds and breathy, enduring vocals. His presence draws a hushed response during songs and rapturous applause in between, with cries of love and lust from the audience a regular occurrence.
Playing the entire album, the gig had a great balance between the stripped down sound of Ben playing solo, and the fuller sound that his band created around him.
Highlights included a full-band version of Stole You Away, featuring moody slide guitar and a bluesy solo, an extended version of Don’t Go Slow, which built from quiet into a rousing crescendo, and closer Atlas Hands, which was played completely unplugged and drew one of the softest and sweetest singalongs of any gig I’ve been to.
Alongside the songs from his long player, Ben also played Hole in My Hand and Maps from the A Million Miles Out EP, previewed two new songs from the forthcoming In The Open EP, and even found time for a slow and delicate cover of Arcade Fire’s Rebellion (Lies).
The new songs - the EP’s title track In The Open and Manchester Snow, which Ben reveals has a rather risqué story behind its title, involving 23 rendezvous’ with a Manchester girl in the space of one week - sound great live and point towards a fuller sound Ben is creating.
As he is on Twitter, Ben appears a very down to earth guy on stage, constantly thanking fans for coming out and the venue for having him. Following him on Twitter is a must if you want to learn more about modern life on the road, he is often found asking after a spare washing machine or shower, and personally thanking fans – myself included – that have tweeted about buying tickets or enjoying the album.
And as Ben mentions some of his recent tours, it seems he has been on tour constantly for a long time now. But still filling venues after several lengthy tours with the album is an indicator of its lingering impact, and his fans appear as dedicated as he is.
With the new EP - to be released next month - offering a glimpse into what is next, this talented young Yorkshireman is continuing to brew up a storm.