This must have been the week for husky-voiced English singers – first I saw Ellie Goulding play at the Commodore and then on Friday night, I had the pleasure of seeing Benjamin Francis Leftwich in his first sold out show of his tour at the Media Club. If you get a chance to go to the Media Club, go. It’s small and intimate, and I promise you’ll never get as close to any band than in this place.
Friday night’s opener, Jordan Klassen, was a total sweetheart. He played alongside a woman named Jocelyn who’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo inspired haircut became a cute story shared with the audience. These two were completely endearing and they played off each other as well as any live duo I’ve ever seen play. Klassen’s voice had a powerfully impressive range hitting highs and lows perfectly – and combined with Jocelyn’s harmonies, their acoustic and quirky music made them a great start to the night.
I stumbled across Leftwich’s album Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm shortly after it came out last summer. “Stole You Away” was the first song I’d heard and I loved it. His slower, acoustic guitar-driven songs immediately made me think of Ben Howard but with a heart-wrenching undertone that’s a little more reminiscent of Elliot Smith’s stuff. At only 23 years old, it sounds like Leftwich has already lived a lifetime.
When Leftwich came onto the stage, he seemed shy but didn’t hesitate to make eye contact with every single person in the front row. He started his set with “1904” and it immediately made the experience feel more personal – a bit like sitting in a friend’s basement. And just like sitting and listening to your friend play, everyone was quiet during his set. He even thanked us for being so quiet citing that when you open for a band like Imagine Dragons, the audience is a whole lot different. The whole scene was just super relaxed while he quietly serenaded us with song after song including “Shine”, “Maps”, “Butterfly Culture” and “Box of Stones”. He even went unplugged for a couple of them.
For his encore, Ben came back out on stage and then made his way off the stage and came right out into the crowd. We all sat down, crossed-legged style while he sat in the middle of the circle and played his final song for the night. Everyone in the crowd sang along and when it was done, he graciously thanked us and made his way out of the crowd.
One of the best things about the Media Club is that unless a band is in a rush to head out for the night, it’s more than likely that you’ll get a chance to meet and have a drink with the evening’s performers – if you’re into that kind of thing, of course. Eager fans met with Ben, chatted and had their photos taken and he’s so cool that he seemed genuinely pleased and yet completely unfazed by their adoring gazes.