Posted by Kathryn Holden.
Reviewed on 9th February 2010.
Live at Adelphi on Sunday, 31st January 2010
This is the second Communion night I've been to and I have to say that I just fall in love a little bit more every time. What could be more perfect than cosying up in a pub on a Sunday afternoon with your friends and fellow live music fans and just sitting back and listening to a handful of top draw acts to swoon, serenade and sweeten your soon-to-be-over much-too-short weekend. The Adelphi seems even more of a perfect venue for this laid back atmosphere. Just over the canal, you seem somehow just about separated from the city centre's hustle and bustle; for a few hours at least you can forget the outside world.
Daniel Jacks kicked off the event, actually 'kicked' isn't the right word, he rather gently eased us into proceedings as the sun was setting over Leeds. His songs are sentimental lamentations about where love went wrong; past magic moments now crystallised into clear episodic memories. When Jacks tires to generalise or step out of personal experience, he runs the risk of slipping into folk-clich?but luckily, he'll occasionally hit you with a clear-as-day vision about a specific incident about a specific train station and a specific cup of coffee that really concretes his message.
I was particularly eager to see Sam Forrest up next. I remember Nine Black Alps' 'Get Your Guns' and 'Cosmopolitan' being a pretty big anthems for me in secondary school when I was trying to resist the Emo-revolution that seemed to take everyone that was a rock fan by the collar, straighten their hair, straighten their jeans, and get them screaming along to The Used in stereo. No thank you, Nine Black Alps were, and still are, much cooler. Anyway, with these memories of a head banging youth swirling around in my head, Sam Forrest's appearance was bound to be the highlight of my evening, and he certainly didn't disappoint. There's a brilliant slightly dark edginess about Forrest's song writing that I really like, just a glimmer of gothic imagery, just a dash of mild morbidity that really grabs hold of you and captures you in his slightly strange lyrical world for a moment. 'Eyes Like A River' is a song that really haunts you, the chorus, "Let's not be strangers anymore" could so easily be sentimentalised, but Forrest inverts what is expected and manages to create a melancholic, eerie atmosphere: switching down a key when you expect him to change up, and switching up a key when you expect him to change down . You're in a dreamscape when you listen to Sam Forrest live, and as a souvenir you're left with a single cutting line that'll be knocking around between your ears for days. For me, when in 'Salvation Army', Forrest, adopting a doubting down-and-out persona, moans out "maybe I'm too far gone for anybody to ever really love me" just made my knees shake at the time and has stayed with me ever since.
As my dedicated friends went on a scavenger hunt for food, I stayed put for the next act, Killing Fields Of Ontario. After the strangely hypnotically seductive experience of watching Same Forrest, I think a shift in tempo was probably a good plan to bring everyone back down to earth, and the vibrantly energetic Yorkshire-Country-Americana-Folk collective that is Killing Fields Of Ontario was just the ticket. Foot-stompingly upbeat gung-ho songs like 'Tired of Being a Man' were delivered with electric force and uplifting enthusiasm. 'Single Rose' in particular stood out because of its move away from traditional folk and showed an edgier, bluesy, even punky side to the band, with a distinctly White Stripes-esque chorus. Capable of soft and sweet tunes too, Killing Fields Of Ontario really showed that they are more than a one trick pony; definitely work catching next time they play near you.
Jamie Ley popped up penultimately, despite his top billing, apparently because of some logistical cock-up or another to do with the Ryan O'Reilly Band. Unshaken, Ley stunned with his intense and yet intimate delivery. When watching, I tried to think to myself, "have I seen this all before with Johnny Flynn? Would I be better off with Jay Jay Pistolet? Some good old Devendra Banhart?" - I'm still not completely decided on this point, but the fact is, one more guy standing up and singing his heart out while strumming a guitar is never going to be a bad thing. 'Suzy Sang' with its running narrative of falling in love and then being dropped like a stone was the most enticing of Ley's set - and to a large extent, this is the whole point of folk music isn't it? To tell a story? "Subtle yet epic" my friend said to me at the time, and I think I know what she means.
Last, but not least, we had the Ryan O'Reilly Band. Seasoned London performers with a resident slot at Ronnie Scott's under their belt, these guys certainly know what they're doing. Songs have a driving Celtic force behind them and have a certain Van Morrison meets Ryan Adams feel. I'm not sure if my spine was particularly tingling, but my head was definitely nodding and my foot was definitely tapping and I was more than happy to clap along when prompted. Essentially, the Ryan O'Reilly Band provide good old fashioned entertainment: they manage to bypass what could easily be a wedding-band cringe-factor and instead deliver a distinctly non-cheesy feel-good-factor, something that isn't particularly easy to do.
The delight that is Communion takes place on the last Sunday of the month at The Adelphi. It really is a great opportunity to show your support for Leeds' live music scene. This is after all your community; your musical means of communication; your Communion.
Sheffield / Leeds four piece