LEAVES - Live @ THE ROCKET, LEEDS 24.10.02 Review

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Tonight's gig quickly demonstrates why Leaves are destined for greater things. Opening song 'I Go Down' is reminiscent of The Verve & Coldplay, which can't hurt the Icelandic lads' commercial prospects. More importantly the roadie looked very similar to U2's Edge (admittedly from a distance) which is surely an omen that a stadium tour beckons. But casting aside future career prospects, this evening presents the opportunity to hear magnificent new album 'Breathe' in intimate surroundings.

'I Go Down' is a great example of the sort of uplifting melancholia that Coldplay have mastered so successfully, coupled to a Thom Yorke vocal style. Leaves can also effortlessly change up a few gears to rock out impressively, making for a captivatingly varied set. 'Crazy' and 'Alone In The Sun' both sound like Mansun at their finest (the album owes a large debt to 'Attack of the Grey Lantern') but thankfully there isn't a safety pin in sight.

There is a surprisingly muted response to the title track and debut single from the otherwise enthusiastic audience filling the small venue, especially as lead singer Arnar Gudjonsson really begins to put serious effort into impersonating the Mick Jagger pout. Second single 'Race' recalls Echo And The Bunnymen on the album, but live it is played with greater conviction & the squall of the guitars lends the song greater impact.

Leaves @ www.contactmusic.com
 Leaves @ www.contactmusic.com

There is a fine line between being influenced by a band & simply copying and Leaves veer towards the latter definition with 'We'. But if you are going to pinch from an album you may as well opt for a good one, and Radiohead's 'O.K. Computer' is a fine choice. The vocal is used in harmony with the instrumentation to generate a haunting, spectral sound, which is punctuated by subtle guitar inflections. This is something Thom and the gang (a possible band name for Mr. Yorke if Radiohead split up?) have made their trademark. As the song seems to be fading to a conclusion it crashes back into life with the band reaching a blazing crescendo as they give their instruments a satisfying pounding. Introspective songwriting of this quality is always rewarding but it is especially true when raging guitars are used to complement it.

The couple of new songs played suggest that the promise displayed on their debut album was no fluke. Especially 'Sunday Lover' which is an acoustically driven song that echoes Coldplay in being epic without succumbing to bombast.
There was no interaction with the crowd from the band but Leaves were enjoying themselves enough to return to play 'Tomorrow Never Knows' as an encore. It was reminiscent of the 'I am the Walrus' encore that Oasis used to play, with the guitars really cranked up to provide a deserved big finish and an interesting variation on The Beatles original version. Leaves may still have to prove that they are more than the sum of their influences, but on tonight's performance the math is looking pretty good.

Gavin Eves

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