Interview With Benny Franny Lefty

@ The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

This is the last tour I do by myself for the foreseeable future. Once the venues get over a thousand capacity you just need a bit more volume”.

All seems to be looking very promising indeed for the twenty-two year old from York who is already planning larger shows. Tonight he’s sold out Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club with relative ease and the queue to get into the venue extends a hundred yards from the door across the car park to the road and it seems to be a number of peoples first visit to the famous venue;  I was asked of its whereabouts while walking there myself earlier in the evening.

Inside there’s no drum kit or bass amps in sight – an ideal gig for both sound technicians and roadies. The venue’s stage looks rather deserted with a couple of guitar stands the only features of notice in the empty space.

Due to the eagerness of the crowd to arrive early the main support act Daughter play to a practically full room with a large proportion of the crowd deciding it wouldn’t be too impolite to sit on the Brudenell’s worn carpet throughout. Lead singer Elena Tonra and electric guitar player Igor Haefeli counterbalance each other perfectly with dark, brooding guitar meeting Elena’s angelic delivery.  Standout track Landfill is played early on – a song soaked in misery afflicted by a lover’s actions.  The song – championed by 6 Music – includes the lyrics “I want you so much, but I hate your guts”; a sly punch to the stomach sung from beneath a low fringe.

As the headline act shuffles onstage with audible chatter still filling pockets of the venue, at first it seems he should have enlisted a couple of band members to drown out the talkers, but by his second song (Pictures) the venue falls silent – an impressive feat which remains for most of the set. Ben’s songs often consist of simple finger-picked patterns, matched with a great ear for melody. The singer-songwriter admitted earlier – “I still find it a bit weird people go away and listen to my CD – but it’s cool”.

With a set made up almost solely of tunes from his debut record Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm, a mid-set  cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Atlantic City sees Ben switch from acoustic to electric – a move which proves a welcome change of pace.  When asked why the one cover in the set had been this, he replied “he’s my hero and this song always fills me with a nostalgic feeling.” It features on his recently released Covers EP, available to download for free here.

As with the previous act Ben has a beautiful singing voice – warm, remarkably earnest yet world-weary.  Bathing in reverb in a live setting it holds the young audiences’ attention without trouble.

It’s clear that most of the attendees are familiar with Ben’s debut LP but due to the silence held over the venue fans seem to be respectfully mouthing the words rather than singing out loud. Ben told me earlier that the miming along is a common thing – “unless it’s a festival, where a drunk guy at the back shouts ‘Yeah! Atlas Hands!’”

He ends his set on this firm favourite before returning to the stage for a single song encore of the album’s title track performed completely unplugged. As the talking picks up as Ben briefly tunes his guitar a firm “quiet please” is bellowed from the back near the bar much to the singer’s amusement. The faces of the young girls vying for Ben’s attention at the front – who have made heart shapes with their hands – were beginning to show the strain of having their arms raised for forty-five minutes and the singer left the stage for the final time.

With only the single album under his belt so far Ben can get away with touring alone for now. With further material and pressure for an extended set, I feel the acquisition of a backing band is a must to keep the songs sounding fresh and avoid sets becoming slightly repetitive.