NewDad live in Leeds: the future of dreampop is in good hands

NewDad - Madra promo shot

Leeds is a city like no other, and Leeds on a Saturday night is crackling with energy, excitement and that sense of endeavour that only comes with a big gig on the weekend. NewDad are fresh from the release of their stunning debut album, Madra, and the sold-out show is one of the hottest tickets in town.

From the start, the Irish band exude a palpable energy: striding triumphantly on stage at bang on 9pm. This is the first show of the tour and, as they launch into ‘Angel’, it becomes immediately clear what NewDad are all about. They are loud, and the shoegaze-infused dreampop of Madra is executed perfectly throughout, with Sean O’Dowd’s atmospheric noise guitar blending beautifully with the dulcet tones of Julie Dawson. ‘Angel’ is quite reflective of Madra as a whole, and the swaggering rock outro is monumental live. NewDad are at their best when off the leash and rocking with impunity.

The band splice new and old together, with classic favourites ‘Slowly’ and ‘Say It’ complementing the new tracks nicely. Contrasting the pre-Madra tunes with cuts from the album gives the band a fantastic opportunity to showcase their sonic growth.

Madra is moody and dark, melancholic and atmospheric in equal measure, and as the band launch into ‘Nightmares’ and ‘Let Go’ (the latter made up of some stupendously good bass-work from Cara Joshi), it’s impossible to look away from the noise machine on stage. The tunes are gigantic and, in that Pixies way, NewDad have mastered the quiet-loud-quiet thing expertly. Listening to the music swell and grow before crashing up a gear into broody, dark, muscular rock is an utter delight.

Watching Dawson and Joshi play in unison is a priviledge. There are times when their hands move up and down their respective fretboards in perfect time, or they tread on the relevant effects pedal with a synchronised stomp. The pair exchange a series of nods and winks, communicating mid-song, flexing the synchronised chemistry which informs so much of NewDad’s superb sound.

A high point in a set of high points is the band’s cover of The Cure classic ‘Just Like Heaven’, following its immensely popular debut on a recent BBC session. NewDad’s Twitter mentions have been full of people asking for them to work the cover into their live show, and they oblige with a deft touch. Slotting such an iconic song into a set of gloomy melancholy rock is some achievement, and the gothic tones are nothing but complementary to NewDad’s work.

There’s a short encore, which sees singer and guitarist Julie Dawson emerge with drummer Fiachra Parslow to perform a gorgeous rendition of ‘White Ribbons’. Dawson has a white ribbon tied around the top fret of her ice-white Fender Jaguar, imitating the single artwork. It’s an exceptional moment played to pin-drop silence. Her voice is impeccable, and the sold out crowd pays the band the respect deserved for such an intimate moment. The quiet is eventually shattered with the emergence of the wider band, and they close the show with album closer and title track, ‘Madra’.

For the first show of the run, the quartet are exceptionally tight and clearly take great pleasure in playing together. It is a joy to behold, and conquering a venue of this size has been light work for NewDad.

featured image: Zyana Lorenz

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