Benjamin Francis Leftwich – The Crescent, York – 01.05.16
Whispers and echoes – that’s the way to describe that first night of May. The audience made their way to the surprisingly large expanse of the Crescent’s back room, awaiting the York-born talents of the night. As exams loomed and stress was building, a night of immersive folk was needed. From what I’d listened to of Benjamin Francis Leftwich, I was hoping to let these worries of work dissolve until the next day.
In my mind, obviously there was no way he could produce the melancholic tone of his album… surely. But then he started singing, leaving the audience hanging like the bunting which draped the Crescent’s ceiling. This was after casually walking on stage and starting the melodic single ‘Tilikum’ from his upcoming album After The Rain, foreshadowing what was to come – a persevering element of nonchalance and simplicity. The York-born songwriter created a stunned and subdued mood as soon as his haunting tales began. After calling the audience “legends” for their meditative silence, he stepped away from the mic to perform one song without the aid of a PA system. “Just ridiculous”, someone said in awe over the babble of soft voices surrounding me. The 26 year old’s whispering tune resulted in the reflected whispering of praise.
What also must be noted is the talent of York’s own Sam Griffiths, who opened the night with a charismatic flair. His smooth and rich tone (apologies for sounding like I’m describing coffee) oozed confidence and was heightened by his effortless range. The accompanying double bassist also added an extra dimension to the refined, hearty performance. Sam dragged the audience away from the bar and corralled them to the stage with his distinctive voice, and so it was of no surprise that Leftwich called the songwriter his “brother”.
Echoes – I promised echoes. Leftwich treated the audience to their favourites. His acclaimed hits ‘Atlas Hands’ and ‘Shine’ were performed as two more completely acoustic renditions as the mirroring of lyrics swept the crowd. As the first chord of ‘Atlas Hands’ struck, the audience transformed from stagnant spectators to a chorus of barely audible echoes; heightening the haunting sound. I told you – whispers and echoes. Leftwich against Sam Griffiths seemed so different and yet so similar. Whispers against the full bodied, pensiveness against power. Yet what were the similarities? These were two York-bred lads who left the audience awestruck, seemingly by surprise. In a preview for the show, I expected a night of chilled vibes. Consider that box ticked.