Electric Circus, July 31st.
More often than not, stumbling across something of a random show, from a kid on his first tour, turns out to be complete dross. You know the score, some over indulged kids who haven’t had the nous to realise that playing one or two home town shows to a collection of their rabid mates does not constitute national recognition. On the flip side of this though, we are beginning to see ever younger artists reaching world recognition before they can legally drink in many of the venues they sell out. These figures most notably arrive in Lorde and Jake Bugg shaped silhouettes. Perhaps more recently though the young bucks have begun to gain their foothold, perhaps through those such as South London’s King Krule, on the chalice of critical recognition though, and although it’s always been said that it’s a young man’s game (sorry Mick), it sometimes seems that even having a drivers license is classed as ‘getting on a bit’ these days by the major label sect.
At 18 years old, Kiran Leonard may at first seem to be another of these young go-getters. Although having played his first ever show with his current band to a few thousand people at Radio Six Music Festival after months of being lauded by Marc Riley and Lauren Laverne, it may be said that he is already outdoing some of his peers. Coupling this with having released his debut self recorded album Bowler Hat Soup in 2013, on which he played all twenty two featured instruments himself, this young man certainly appears a genuinely interesting proposition on paper. Could we be dealing with a Manchester-bred Sufjan Stevens here?
From the performance that follows, it’s entirely possible. Taking the stage shoeless (but wearing socks – this is a sensible lad we’re dealing with), and with a band that look more like the type that would be selling you the records in your local store rather than making them, it’s immediately apparent that Mr. Leonard is not one for aesthetic gimmickry. This is all about the music, man. Playing cuts largely from his debut, Leonard demonstrates his penchant for Deerhoof-esque whackiness, yet all with his own teenage-bedroom-smell wafting around his rather masterful song-writing. It’s a sound that is hard to pin down, hard to predict, and made all the more fun for it. Leonard’s live set up is somewhat simple. He plays his guitar straight into his amp with no effects, and does not even attempt to try and recreate the instrumental eclecticism of the record itself. Instead, through the sporadic whig out of “Geraldo’s Farm” and the milder, short and sweet “Dear Lincoln” it seems that Leonard has managed to create a sound that, rather paradoxically, could only be described as a direct, math rocking psychedelia.
The confusion permeates further into his lyrics also. In a song that doesn’t have its title fully revealed, Leonard wails of a man abducted by aliens while driving in his car, who cannot share the tale of his rather enjoyable trip to their home planet upon his return home to earth. It may not be the great social commentary that many are pining for from our young musicians, yet if you’re going to see a live show, who really cares for a finely tuned analogy of David Cameron’s ignorance for the price of milk anyway?
What this writer, and the dozen of other inquisitive onlookers witness tonight therefore may not be the coming of some great musical messiah that will change a generations outlook on British life.
In reality, Kiran Leonard is more likely to confuse and astound than to win over some groupies. However one should simply not forget that this is the final date on this young man’s first ever tour, and to display such imagination and sheer (meaning real) talent at this point in his career is nothing but impressive.
The world doesn’t need another rock star anyway.