The Good, The Bad, And The Inspired
As a teenager growing up in Ireland in the fairly provincial and peripheral city of Cork I read a lot of music magazines. Kerrang!, NME, and Q were my music bibles and I devoured them. Through all of them one venue seemed to be ubiquitous. Every issue seemed to mention some epic band playing in what I presumed was the most awesome venue in the Northern Hemisphere. When I finally made it to London for my first trip around 2009, I couldn’t leave without making a trip to this venue. For me, it symbolised music. It symbolised London. That venue is The Barfly. Now, it’s 2014 and I’m back in The Barfly for my first review of a band playing the legendary venue. With it’s reputation of supporting burgeoning and pioneering acts, it’s only apt that tonight is an Xfm Xposure showcase.
Kent five piece Royal Theatre are proficient and singer Oliver Burgess gives it his absolute all but sometimes that just isn’t enough as musically the band cover the path often taken. Think the Waterboys but without the melodies. What drives a band to neutrality?
In stark contrast is London based singer songwriter Joseph Coward. With just John accompanying him on guitar as the rest of the band have been apparently “fired” (we’re pretty sure that’s a joke), Coward’s music is defiant and yet vulnerable. Latest single “Thin” and the roiling “Idle Boy” recall Morrissey in their regal vocal delivery and razor sharp lyrics. “Jesus Christ” explores one of Coward’s favourite subjects: religion. This is hardly a surprise as Coward grew up as a member of an Evangelical Pentecostal church. Spellbinding. His debut album The World Famous Joseph Coward is out 13th October. If you enjoy your music both melodic and smart, I suggest you pick it up.
Headlining is 18 year old prodigy Kiran Leonard and his absolutely incendiary band. The spasmodic Leonard leads them through a selection of proggy fiery tunes from his repertoire. The story goes that Leonard has written 30 albums of material, and very little of the setlist seems to bear a resemblance to his latest album
Bowling For Soup Bowler Hat Soup. The tunes that are played are decidedly mathy and aggressive with jaggedly complex riffs butted up next to sumptuous melody and inhuman howls that seem to emanate from the depths of Leonard’s being. He gurns and grimaces his way through the ceaselessly enchanting material. The lucky patrons of The Barfly stand silently as if they know they are witnessing a unique talent.
At times Jeff Buckley’s legendary live show is called to mind as the band looks to Leonard for absolute direction and he at times allows his more melodic singing to cut through his guttural howl. All the while the band churns unpredictably like a tempest around him. I must admit I was riveted to the spot. If Leonard fades to obscurity while those with only a fraction of his charisma and talent flourish I will abandon faith in humanity. Next time he’s in London if all was equal he’ll be at The Roundhouse across the road.