On Friday night, at The Lexington in Islington, fans flocked to see up and coming pop rock star Leon Of Athens. His new single ‘Aeroplane’ was released earlier in the week and he was now setting off on his UK Tour. Along for the ride were his support acts Lectures and Xylaroo.
When I initially saw Lectures on the bill, I thought we were in for some sort of talk before the music started. “Not your usual Friday Night entertainment” I mused. Fortunately, my fears were quickly dashed when the indie four-piece from Tunbridge Wells took to the stage.
The sad fact of these small gigs is that the first act of the night is often playing to a half empty (or half full) room. Still, it didn’t seem to bother the quartet as they kicked things off with the dark and eerie tones of ‘Every Colour’. Their new single ‘Entry Point‘ was a highlight from a set comprised of mostly new material. Their overall sound remained consistent throughout, although it definitely proved more effective on some songs than others. ‘Great Healing Machine’ will probably stick in the memory more than, say, ‘Angels in Green’. They produce great background music, but to grab attention they may have to diversify a little more. To their credit as a live band, they’re tight as a unit and when issues arise with broken cables and incorrect pedal settings they deal with them well.
By contrast, Xylaroo are more “back to basics”; they’re not hidden by electronics and effects. It’s simply two sisters (Coco & Holly Chant), a guitar and their gorgeous harmonies. Imagine Ward Thomas if they moved from country over to folk. Certainly, these two deserve just as much attention for their vocal talent. In such a small room their harmonies completely blew me away. They’re enough to create an atmosphere without the need for special effects. As they belted out ‘Sunshine’ you could feel the mood of the room lift while more people continued to arrive. They took us to Hikkaduwa beach in Sri Lanka on ‘The Air Is Sweet’ – “when life is expensive and love is cheap, welcome to ecstasy” they sang as their voices soaked us in paradise. They also briefly explained their name between songs “Imagine a kangaroo playing the xylophone”. I would never have guessed. Their set was powerful, captivating and the perfect support for the night’s headliner.
Leon Of Athens is a born frontman. He has a great energy about his character as well as his music. Time didn’t permit him to talk much with the crowd between songs, so he let the music do the talking. He explains that his set tonight consists of “mostly new material”. However, he did open with some familiarity; a song from his debut album called ‘Global’, which, together with new song ‘Corfu’, gave the audience a great introduction to Leon’s sound. Not that he had many new fans to win over, it appeared that Leon had a lot of his home support in the building.
We were serenaded with some wonderful guitar melody on ‘Serpent’s Egg’ before he took the microphone off its stand during ‘Final Moment’ and engaged with the crowd. Before he performed his latest single, Leon and his band delivered an enchanting performance of ‘Pilot’. This was probably my favourite song of the night along with the grand finale of ‘Xenos’. ‘Aeroplane’ fittingly followed ‘Pilot’ and it was one of the few songs to which the audience knew most of the words.
He dedicated the very moving ballad of ‘Moonlight’ to a friend in the audience, which added more impact to an already beautiful song. But this where I really notice the thing that’s been bothering me about this gig. Nearly everyone is talking to one another while Leon performs. This means the quiet and sentimental moments, such as on ‘Moonlight’, are almost ruined. I accept that friends gather to socialise at events, but as far as I’m concerned we’re here to appreciate the music and show our respect to the artists performing.
‘Baby Asteroid’ and ‘Xenos’ ensured Leon’s set closed with a bang. During the introduction to the former, he said “Thank you so much for being here tonight” and you could hear his sincerity. Leon’s music and his aptitude for live performance made for a very enjoyable night out and his new album should hopefully be just as successful.
By Will Hunt
Lectures leave something to be desired
Xylaroo’s harmonies are incredible
Leon Of Athens delivered a great headline set
New material is sounding strong
Quieter and sentimental moments marred by crowd chatter
Lectures – 6/10
Xylaroo – 8/10
Leon Of Athens – 8/10
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Leon Of Athens