Mixed set that delights and frustrates in equal meaures
When I arrive at 93 Ft East not long before Leaves come, the room is quite full, but not packed, and I start to feel slightly apprehensive. There's quite a mixed crowd, something quite surprising for an indie band like these guys - on record, they sound indie as down to the nasal whine - with indie posers rubbing shoulders with city slickers. In fact, Leaves wander on stage without anyone really noticing, and they clearly believe in letting the music speak for itself.
The first song is so bass heavy that I'm left wondering whether the mixing is being done properly, although it bears some resemblance to Amusement Parks on Fire, but it still takes away from everything else. If it wasn't for the fact that the band look uncomfortable, it would be a great opener.
It's not long, however, before I'm wishing that I'd bought a pair of ear plugs. The next two tracks, which include 'Breathe', remind me of Keane so strongly just with added guitars. The band are studiously shoe gazing, and beginning to look bored - mind you, with a song like 'Breathe' I can't blame them. Singer Arnar mumbles a introduction to it, and it's so bland, indie by numbers a la Jet 'Look What You've Done', it's really quite depressing. The only thing that saves them is the drumming which is superb. Regardless of this, the crowd love it even if quite a lot of people are talking amongst themselves.
The next song is better - dark and moody for once, and doesn't involve a piano. It's then that it occurs to me that there's nothing wrong with the tunes, rather the vocals are horrible. They're whiney and sound tortured in a bad way. The same could be said of the next song, once singer Arnar leaves the piano alone. Once the singing is abandoned near the end, it's obvious that the music itself is stunning with the end pretty manic and impressive. It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the best songs of the evening is am instrumental. It sounds great live - this wild wall of sound just hits you and you could get lost in it if you wanted to. It's a shame that people are talking more through it, though.
By the time the fiery, passionate end of 'Chapman' rolls around even the band are getting into it and look as if they're enjoying themselves a bit. There's even some chirpy banter beforehand, loud enough so those of us at the back can hear it. The set has already been rather mixed, veering from dark and brooding soundscapes to awful indie, but nothing prepares me for encore song. It sounds so much like Soulwax, it could be a cover version and Arnar's vocals sound just like Stephen DeWaele. It's cool nonetheless.
Leaves have played a set that delights but frustrates in equal measures, and I'm frequently left wishing for something a bit more substantial. For all that, tonight's gig was almost enjoyable with a few moments of musical wonder.