“I’ve played The Duchess since, well, time began. There’s no feeling like your selling out in your own town.”
Playing to a home crowd on Saturday night, Benjamin Francis Leftwich already had the audience seduced. His whispery voice and dreamy melodies on debut LP, Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm, coupled with occasional cameos on York’s open mic scene, meant he could do no wrong.
Their adoration grew deeper after a not-so-intimate gig in which he introduced us to his latest material and provided an added kick to proceedings in the form of his new backing band. Tour-on-tour, Leftwich casts an increasingly confident presence on stage, trading delicate acoustic memoirs full of emotional torment for more rousing renditions.
Opening to firm favourites Pictures, 1904, and Shine, before a brief trip back to 2010 with Maps and Arcade Fire’s Rebellion (Lies), we were made to wait for tracks from his latest EP. In The Open adds new layers to his undoubted warmth whilst he takes the inevitable next step of playing with a backing band in his stride.
No less emotional than its predecessor, In The Open (released 19 November) and Manchester Snow are equally as polished and defiant of his youthful 23 years. With his exposure greater than ever, it’s just the solid sequel that was called for.
However, with the world seemingly at his feet, it will be interesting to see where Leftwich goes from here and whether he can find a more optimistic narrative amongst the trademark poignancy that has served him so well so far.