‘This is why we came’ – Benjamin’s back

Welcome home, Benjamin. Welcome. Come on in, and close the door
The man with three names draws a big crowd to The Duchess for his homecoming gig – but can he meet their expectations? Grace Clarke was there to find out

 

Review: Benjamin Francis Leftwich
Venue: The Duchess, October 27

 
Well, it would seem that I am completely naive to the success of Benjamin Francis Leftwich. Things have certainly changed, I remember the days you’d find him in The Habit sipping mint tea of a Thursday evening, or strolling down Stonegate unrecognised.

I foolishly expected to find The Duchess half empty, with just a handful of candlelit tables at the front occupied by a selection of York’s finest power couples.

I was right about the couples, but the tables were nowhere to be seen. And neither was the stage, having been completely engulfed by Ben’s ever increasing fan base. Faces old and new gathered to delight in his success.

So, this was it, his homecoming gig. By anyone’s standards it should be amazing. As a Springsteen fan he’ll appreciate the sentiment when I say York’s Stonebow is his Asbury Park.

So it’s his homecoming gig, and I am late. I managed to catch the tail end of Joe Janiak’s set and all of Marika Hackman’s. My brief encounter with Joe leaves me far from qualified to comment, but a little scout about on Youtube led me to a beautiful cover of You Can’t Hurry Love, although delve a little further and his original material instantly overshadows it.

Marika Hackman has a voice similar to the likes of Laura Marling and Lucy Rose. She’s a skinny little thing hidden behind Joni Mitchell locks and an acoustic guitar. She’s doing her own tour at the end of November but the closest she’s coming to little old York is Manchester – maybe next time, eh?

Unfortunately, the support acts were almost completely drowned out by people catching up, exchanging their own Leftwich anecdotes. Tonight felt like a reunion. I nestled myself at the back of the room and was forced to contemplate my loneliness – there were couples quite literally as far as the eye could see, but I wasn’t contemplating for long, Benjamin was about to take the stage.

All the anxiety of wanting it to be amazing, all the pre-gig tension, was needless. Of course it was amazing. This is Benjamin Francis Leftwich we’re talking about.

He walked out to stadium-style applause, launching straight into the set with a few firm favourites from Last Smoke Before The Snow Storm, working through an Arcade Fire cover, a couple of news songs, and finishing inevitably with Atlas Hands.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed new track In The Open, which came as a welcome holiday from his usual melancholic style. Box of Stones went down splendidly with the couple next to me, I heard the man whisper to the lady: “This is why we came.”

We were hanging on his every whispery word. The full band versions of the songs we’d all heard acoustically sounded better than ever – it’s no surprise he’s been selling out venues nationwide.

With songs for lovers and the lonely, we welcome you home, Leftwich. You’ve been missed.