As exciting as big gigs with video projections and light shows are, there’s something even more impressive about a stripped down, low-key acoustic show. One guy, one guitar, in front of a room full of strangers; done right, it can match any show for atmosphere. And that’s where we find ourselves tonight, in a sold out Divan Orange.
English singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich has been quiet over the past few years. Debut Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm was released in 2011, and aside from one visit in 2012 (also at Divan Orange, opening for The Jezabels), it’s been quiet ever since. This makes it all the more amazing that tonight’s show, in support of upcoming sophomore album After The Rain, is completely sold out, and has been for a while. Indeed, Benjamin himself looks a little surprised at the size of the gathering as he takes to the stage.
He begins with new song Tilikum, and then Pictures, which culminates in Benjamin backing off the mic for the last verse and shouting the vocals from further back on the stage, giving a very raw feel to the songs conclusion. On Stole You Away, he kills the power completely midway through the song, save for the mic, and the sound of the crowd singing along harmonizes with Benjamin immaculately. After the song, he comments on how quiet the crowd is while he plays, apparently in stark contrast to Boston! A few songs later, he again thanks us for our silence, before stepping to the front of the stage, completely unplugged, without even a mic, and delivers a hugely emotive Summer. Of course, having thanked us for our silence, it’s inevitable that someone will let the side down, which duly happens when a girl at the front tries to film the song with a phone that beeps loudly in its startup. Everyone laughs, and Benjamin jokingly points to the door and tells her to get out! A couple of minutes later, during the same song, the roadie manages to knock a full bottle of water off one of the amps, making a loud thud as it hits the deck and drawing further laughs from Benjamin and crowd alike. Besides those two distractions, though, it’s perfectly quiet except for the voice and guitar of Benjamin and the whirr of the ceiling fans, and a standout moment from the set.
Box Of Stones ends in a similar manner to Pictures, with Benjamin backed off from the mic and allowing the audience, still singing along, to share on vocal duties, and then the touching Mayflies (or “Shadflies,” as Canadians call them) follows. He switches to an electric Epiphone for the first and only time on Butterfly, allowing for echo-ey reverb effects and a spooky ambiance, before reverting back to his trusty acoustic guitar for Frozen Moor, a homage to his home county of Yorkshire, England. He’s quick to compliment Montreal too, saying he walked around that day listening to Drake…before quickly clarifying that he knows Drake is not from here, before anyone can boo him! Surely nobody would though; at this point, he has the entire crowd eating out of his hand. He then introduces Shine as his last song, and advises that if we want an encore, we should let him know before he reaches the edge of the stage, as he basically has nowhere else to go from there (ah the perks of tiny venues like this!). Of course, everyone cheers wildly for more at the conclusion of the song, and so Benjamin duly obliges by picking up his guitar and delivering a 2-song encore of Maps and the classic Atlas Hands, before leaving the stage for good after a truly moving, emotive 55-minutes.
After the show, he immediately heads to the back of the venue to mingle with anybody who wants to speak to him, and is just as affable off the stage as he is likeable on it. It’s obvious that the heartfelt, acoustic music is not an act, as he comes off as a genuinely sentimental guy in taking to him. He mentions that the photo of 2 school children laid across the top of his effects pedals during the set is actually him and his sister, and when I ask if he’s homesick after such a long time on the road, he simply replies “always.”
On various occasions between songs tonight, at least 8 that I counted, Benjamin expressed his gratitude to the crowd with “thank you, you beautiful people.” Well, right back at you, Benjamin; beautiful music, a beautiful atmosphere, a truly beautiful show.
Stole You Away
Some Other Arms
Box of Stones
Review & photos – Simon WilliamsShare this :