Live Review: Benjamin Francis Leftwich with John Brodeur at Black Cat Backstage, Washington DC – 26th February 2013

By on Monday, 11th March 2013 at 2:00 pm

I knew I was going to enjoy the show with Benjamin Francis Leftwich, but what I didn’t know was how funny he was. Dead funny. Sometimes an artist will take the stage and mumble through his set. Sometimes they’ll not talk to the audience at all. I’ve even experienced painful, strained discourse that makes me pray they’ll shut up. Leftwich not only was comfortable in his own skin all alone on stage, but he drolly deadpanned his way throughout his set leaving us all giggling.

The evening started off a little on the slow side with John Brodeur. With a bit of hobo chic, he gave us a true story of abuse from ‘Across the Hall’ and a lover’s lament in ‘Peace’. Sadly, I found nothing remarkable about his songs or performance. I think it takes a special kind of someone to command a crowd with just you and your guitar, and I have seen quite a few gigs where this is carried off brilliantly. Sorry to say, but Brodeur just didn’t do it for me.

John Brodeur live

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the Leftwich gig. But a guy who tweets that this was going to be the penultimate gig of the tour is a winner to me (‘penultimate’ being my favourite underused word in American English). The place I was going was exceptionally small, so I suspected it was going to be just him and a guitar, no other musicians at all. And unlike my recent Foy Vance support slot to Ed Sheeran in January (a guy also prone to performing on a stage with just his guitar), no loop pedal either. What exactly could this guy do that would shake up at rather quiet, melodic studio offering to make it a gig worth coming out for? Well it didn’t take long to find out. After starting off with the stunning ‘1904’, full of the reverb so prevalent in the recording, Leftwich looked us over and must have decided in our favour. The next thing I knew, he had unplugged his guitar and stepped out in front of the mic. Album opener ‘Pictures’ was delivered, clear as a bell, to the assembled crowd. That started a night of weaving completely unamplified bits in with the regular fuller parts of the songs. I honestly don’t know if this is how he handled all of the previous dates of his American tour, but it was a particularly brilliant treatment for the room we were in.

We got some new tunes as well: ‘Day by Day’, written about the good parts of being on the road all the time, ‘Little Moon’, written during the time when he learned about his father’s illness, and ‘Cocaine Doll’. It will be interesting to see what songs survive to the new album that he kept talking about going home to record.

Benjamin Francis Leftwich live

The best moment? Has to be the encore. Coming back out on stage, he was clearly happy with the way we had been receiving the structure of his set and he hopped off the stage, sat down on the floor and invited us all to join him. It was like a campfire sing-along. But with beer. And a really cool counselor. So there he sat, people all around him, singing ‘Atlas Hands’ like he had known us all his life. Cheers to you, man. Come back any time and sing for us again.

After the cut: Leftwich’s set list.

Benjamin Francis Leftwich Set List:
Stole You Away
Day by Day
Little Moon
Cocaine Doll
Butterfly Culture
Box of Stones
Atlas Hand

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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