Live Review: Benjamin Francis Leftwich [The Ruby Lounge]
The Ruby Lounge already has a crowd gathered outside by the time I arrive. It’s a mixture of age groups here, which just goes to show the appeal of Benjamin’s music. In a world where talent shows and manufactured acts dominate the charts and the front of our newspapers, it really is refreshing to see that talented, self taught and dedicated musicians can still pull in a crowd and are the true unsung musical heroes of our country. As I enter the venue and look around I cannot honestly think of a venue better suited for tonights line up of acts. It just seems the right size, perfect for an intimate gig.
Monument Valley takes to the stage so quietly and humbly that we can all be forgiven for our initial shock when he starts singing. Lyrically beautiful, the songs are stories being told, with Ned performing them so effortlessly that it looks as natural as breathing to him. With such an endearing personality and clear talent it easy to see why the crowd are drawing closer to the stage and offer him a warm and heartfelt applause. Despite it being his first performance in Manchester its clear to see it won’t be his last.
Daughter are next up and there’s an instant presence about Elena Tonra that draws you in. The room falls silent as her beautiful folk inspired vocals fill the room. It is once again clear that these songs are stories, written from personal experience. Singing about unrequited love in a way that captures the confusion and pain of the situation it is hard to not feel moved. Simple lyrics such as ‘And you broke my chest’ somehow ring true and perfectly describe how love and loss affects us all. Daughter pours genuine emotion in to each word she sings and performs beautifully. The crowd love her, which she seems to find overwhelming but adds to the instant likeability of her. Their music is personal, beautiful and effortless yet simple. It’d be easy for a musician like this to be cryptic and pretentious with their lyrics but she avoids that by talking openly and honest about real life situations we can all relate to in one way or another, which is no mean feat for any musician today.
The room seems to have swelled with people, the atmosphere is relaxed and warm as Benjamin Francis Leftwich finally comes on the stage to perform. Opening with ‘1904’ which is a song taken from his new album Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm it is clear to see that his music has gone from strength to strength. Like the other performers tonight Benjamin is humble and seems genuinely overwhelmed by the reaction to his music. Again, this is refreshing to see, in a world full of ego’s and over complicated performers who behave more like divas than musicians, it’s reassuring to see that there are still performers who are true to themselves and their music by not over complicating their image with an ego and just choose to be themselves. Instead of getting lost in mediocrity they flourish and continue to grow musically. And this is something Benjamin has done. Choosing to perform songs from his latest album over familiar songs, we don’t mind though as his new songs are as beautiful as his older ones. He does treat us to ‘Maps’ which of course comes from his first EP. Benjamin is a natural performer and this shines through as he treats us to anecdotes and banters with the crowd, making him even more likeable. Before launching in to yet another track from the new album, “Butterfly Culture” he informs us that he wrote this song when he was in a rock band which seems incredibly hard to envisage when listening to his beautiful indie, acoustic folk music. Next up on the setlist is a cover of one of Benjamin’s favourite songs and a song he tells us he sings pretty much every night. Covering Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Atlantic City’ it, at least at first, seems like a strange choice for the somewhat shy singer/songwriter but when you listen to the lyrics it becomes clear why Benjamin likes it so much and almost clarifies where Benjamin’s influence for the husky tone to his voice comes from. For me though a truly amazing moment of tonight is when Benjamin steps away from the mic and sings ‘Box of Stones’ directly to the audience. It is clear that this song is incredibly personal to Benjamin and every beautifully formed lyric is sang with such genuine emotion that it brings tears to my eyes and looking around me, many other peoples eyes too. Closing the show with ‘Atlas Hands’ reminds us all why most of us are here tonight, and why Benjamin is now on his 3rd album. Because he writes with talent and sincerity and performs beautifully and humbly which will continue to draw in fans both old and new for a very long time.
It’s hard to sum up this evening without sounding like a romantic fool or using the word beautiful but that is how the whole evening has felt, beautiful. Incredibly intimate and personal, with all the musicians displaying simplistic and effective song writing and amazing vocals it is plain to see why so many people can relate to their music. Too often musicians can get overcomplicated and confusing as they reflect and feel torn as to whether they want to write brilliant music or become famous. Tonight has shown that a more simplistic and honest approach can help you achieve both musical integrity and fame with those that matter. We at Music From Rainy Skies magazine have thoroughly enjoyed being given the opportunity to cover tonights gig and hope you all do yourself a favour by checking out the artists who have performed, we can assure that you will not be disappointed.
Words: Georgina Smith
Photography: William Lane