Photograph by Katrina Lat (2016).
There’s something to be said about a show with no climax. Benjamin Francis Leftwich and friends said it Thursday night at the MOD Club.
The night opened with two complimentary acts, both ideal preludes to the show’s moody timbre. Megan Bonnell, a Toronto-based singer-songwriter, said hello with a collection of pretty folk ballads. Sweet and soft-sung, the blonde haired songstress enchanted the room just in time for her successor.
Brolly, with his backwards cap over unkept locks, looked like the epitome of a California kid. He might have been mistaken for stage crew before the spotlight hit and the music started. Accompanied only by his dreamy electric finger work, Brolly’s rich vocals stole the set. His catalogue of indie-folk originals were pensive, atmospheric glances at life. The attentive crowd was undoubtedly warmed up for the main event.
This was Leftwich’s second time playing the venue, a happy return to his “second favourite city in the whole fucking world.” That is, next to his motherland, London. Leftwich made waves with his debut album in 2011, compared by many to the likes of Bon Iver and Damien Rice. His raspy voice is unmistakable; a breathy whisper that bleeds emotion in its quality alone. Coupled with his sleepy, acoustic music, the lyrics are centre stage in virtually every piece. And thank god for that.
Leftwich is a poet first. His opening number was “Tilikum”, a hypnotizing stand-out from his most recent album “After the Rain”. The song was about lust and losing, boasting lyrics like “Your husband thinks you’re sleeping at a Motorway hotel,” while asking his lover to “be my rose growing in the cold.” A later piece called “Butterfly Culture” told a story of longing. Leftwich sang, “We play and we pray to god that the girl in the dress will undress, and distress you with the way that she moves.” The crowd’s respect for his words was evident in their silence.
The British headliner had an intense demeanour about him, seemingly serious from song one, but his transitional banter was cheeky and blunt. After each song, Leftwich thanked the crowd with purpose. He bowed at specific individuals, nodding his head with all the gratitude of a first- timer. Leftwich was so pleased with his audience that he went off book with “Maps”, a lullaby from his very early days. The song wasn’t originally on his set list for the night, but the room had him “feeling a way in the six.”
Every piece was executed with a more intimate depth than can be heard in his studio work. With only his guitar to share the stage, Leftwich made sure to give all of himself, even in the softest of songs. In short, he performed with a weight far heavier than the music itself.
From opener to encore, the night was a steady trip with a dreamy view. Leftwich and his cohorts seem to have mastered the art of melancholia.